Sudden Calf pain when walking or jogging that causes a sudden sharp twinge into Upper calf muscle is a an injury often experienced by casual walkers and Road Runners. In many cases it is caused by a sudden tear to upper tendon attachment of the Gastrocnemius muscle, which is the upper calf region towards the back of the knee joint region. This injury is known as Tennis Leg. While it can affect younger athletes, it is more common between the ages of 40 to 70 years. People who previously experienced a calf injury can be vulnerable to Tennis Leg injury.
Signs & Symptoms
Patient suffers a sudden sharp twinge of Pain in the Upper area of the Calf muscle
Swelling and a palpable lump can be seen at the site of pain
Touching the area of Pain is quite sore
Difficulty and Pain when Walking
Other Conditions that cause Calf Pain
Thromboplebitis - which causes swelling and muscle tenderness into the Calf. It occurs due to blood clotting accompanied by inflammation in the wall of the blood vessel.
Compartment Syndrome – a condition of excessive pressure within the compartment structures of the calf muscles that causes calf pain.
Intermittent Claudication stimulates cramp like pain in the calf region due to narrowing of the arteries that transport blood to the lower leg.
Popliteal Entrapment – affects younger athletes where the popliteal nerve behind the knee becomes compressed leading to calf pain during weight bearing movement.
Treatment & Management
Immediate care post sudden injury consists of anti-inflammatory medication, compression bandage, ice and elevation of the lower leg coupled with rest through the use of crutches. Once the inflammation has reduced after a number of days, gentle light stretching can be commenced to help align the healing scar tissue at the site of injury. Physical therapy in form of graded friction massage is necessary also in aligning the newly laid collagen fibres to the torn muscle tissue. A heel lift in the shoe is also important as it helps to reduce pressure and on the achilles tendon and hence the gastrocnemius (calf muscle). As the healing process continues theraband strengthening resistence exercises are introduced which is later followed by weight bearing exercises to further strengthen the newly laid collagen tissue.
Tomás Ryan is a Registered Physical Therapist with The Irish Association of Physical Therapy and is based in Thurles.
Contact Number: 0504 26672
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Physiotherapy & Injury Rehabilitation Clinic in Tipperary