Have you experienced calf pain? If so, we guarantee you don’t want it to ever happen again. This article will explain what causes calf pain, OTC and home remedies to relieve sore calf muscles, and things you can do to prevent calf pain in the future.
Why Does My Calf Muscle Hurt?
The two primary causes of calf pain are cramps and calf strain. Other conditions like tight hamstrings or neuropathy can also lead to calf pain. However, calf pain doesn’t always indicate an underlying condition. Physical trauma caused by over workouts or excessive use can easily lead to sore calf muscles.
Cramps are the sudden contraction of muscles and often feel like waves of tension pain even when trying to stretch out the contracting muscles. Calf cramps can happen if you’re dehydrated or potassium-deficient.
Calf strain is a common physical trauma among people with jobs that require prolonged sitting or standing, as the condition happens when you suddenly move or stretch your calf after being still. Sometimes you can also strain your calves by trying to relieve a cramp too forcefully and your ankle pulls the calf muscle straight too quickly.
Other Causes of Calf Pain
Certain diseases could cause calf pain, including:
- Arterial claudication: narrowing or blockage of an artery. This interferes with normal blood circulation and can lead to sore calf muscles and cramps.
- Neurogenic claudication: the compression of spinal nerves in the lower spine. This typically leads to nerve pain in the calves.
- Achilles tendinitis: One of the most common ankle injuries. Can lead to inflammation in calf muscles.
- Compartment syndrome: Extreme calf muscle pain can result from compartment syndrome, where pressures within muscles have cumulated to a dangerous level.
- Diabetic neuropathy: peripheral neuropathy affecting your outer (peripheral) nerves. Leading to numbness, inflammation, and extreme nerve pain in the legs and feet. The best way to manage the symptoms is using a shiatsu foot massager for neuropathy patients.
- Plantar fasciitis: One of the most common foot diseases in America. While it doesn’t directly affect your calf muscles, it can lead to calf strains.
Can Calf Pain Be Heart-related?
Cramping calves can be a sign of peripheral artery disease (PAD), where plaques build up in your arteries, narrowing or blocking the vessels and reducing the blood and blood oxygen that reaches your leg.
PAD puts you at a higher risk for heart attacks. If your family has a history of heart disease, or you are experiencing other PAD symptoms such as numbness and chills in your legs and feet, consult a medical professional!
Why Do My Calves Ache and Feel Tight?
If your calves feel tight and ache, you might have tight hamstrings. Tight calves can also result from overuse. So, if you ran a marathon, had a harsher training session, or if your job is physically demanding and you haven’t rested, those can all be the culprit behind your tight calves.
Does Calf Pain Mean Blood Clot?
Not necessarily. A blood clot, or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) can divert the blood flow to adjacent veins. If you have a blood clot near your calves, it can lead to calf pain and calf cramps. A great way to tell if your calf pain is caused by DVT is that regular cramps can happen in both legs but DVT pain typically stays at one spot (where the clot is).
Home Remedies for Sore Calves
The most common home remedies for sore calves include:
- Heat therapy: giving yourself a hot soak with pain-relieving essential oils and Epsom salt can reduce calf cramps.
- Calf massages: You can massage your sore calves to help build stronger muscles and relieve calf pain.
- Ice packs: If you injured your calf muscles, put an ice pack on it and use the R.I.C.E method during the first 48-72 hours to ensure a fast recovery. Do not use heat within the first 48 hours of injury!
- Gentle stretching: If you have a cramp, slightly and gently stretch your calves out. But be careful: stretching too quickly could lead to calf strain!
If you get calf pain regularly, consider investing in a percussive body massager. These portable massages are compact and convenient. A short 5-10 minute massage might be all you need to relieve your sore calf muscles.
When Should I Be Concerned About Calf Pain?
If you feel pain during or after normal walking, notice swelling in your legs, or see swollen calf veins, make a doctor’s appointment. If your pain seems to happen way too frequently, lasts longer than it should, or worsens over time, you should also take that as a warning.
As we mentioned, calf pain is usually unrelated to severe illnesses. However, it could result from blood clots, PAD, and diabetes.
How to Prevent Calf Muscle Pain
Hydration is crucial in preventing calf muscle pain. Make sure you meet the minimum daily water intake requirement, about 15 cups for men and 11 cups for women. Potassium-rich foods and potassium supplements can also help prevent calf pain.
You can also train your calves to get stronger. Check out some muscle-building workouts you can do at home and develop a workout routine suitable for your body.