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Sore Calf Muscles

The calf muscles are the ones responsible for the flexion movements in the lower part of the leg. They stretch on the back of the lower leg, being connected to the Achilles tendon. Sore calf muscles can appear because of a number of reasons, being often associated with pain or discomfort. In many cases, the soreness appears in people who have trained excessively or who were engaged in strenuous physical effort. However, the cause varies from one person to the other. There are many people who complain of sore calf muscles due to prolonged sitting.

Most commonly, the soreness or the abnormal feeling is generated by the fact that the calf muscles have been strained or pulled. The intensity of the soreness sensation can range from mild to severe, depending on how bad was the excessive stretching was. The truth is that these muscles serve a lot of functions and we are not always paying attention to how we are using them. Sometimes, a bad move is enough for the calf muscles to become sore. A visit to the doctor will be necessary if the cause of the soreness cannot be identified, if the person is in too much pain or if the self-care does not bring the desired relief.

Symptoms of Sore Calf Muscles

These are the most common symptoms of sore calf muscles:

  • Soreness in the body of the muscle or at the connection with the tendon
  • Burning sensation or numbness in the calf
  • Warmth and tenderness to the touch
  • Muscle fever
  • Arthralgia (joint pain)
  • Muscles spasms – appear most often during the night
  • Reduced range of motion or certain movements are restricted
  • If the muscle is under a lot of tension, then the skin in the area might appear as if discolored, because of the circulatory problems
  • Muscle inflammation

What are the Causes of Sore Calf Muscles?

These are the most common causes that lead to sore calf muscles:

  • Injury to the calf muscles
    • Stretching the calf muscles excessively can lead to muscles fibers being torn, leading to partial muscle rupture
    • This particular type of injury is often encountered in sport players, where there is a lot of active movement and frequent, sudden changes of direction
    • The severity of the injury can range from one person to the other, going from mild to severe
  • Muscle cramps
    • These are caused by an involuntary spasm that appears in the calf muscles
    • Most common causes of muscle cramps include:
      • Excessive physical effort
      • Fatigue
      • Diet
      • Dehydration
      • Muscle tension
    • Often associated with intense pain
  • Deep vein thrombosis
    • Blood clots form in the deep veins of the lower leg
    • Considered medical emergency, as the blood clot can either travel to the heart (causing a heart attack) or into the brain (causing a stroke)
    • Symptoms of this condition are present in the calf region and they include:
      • Pain – aggravated by movements of the foot
      • Redness and warmth
      • Tenderness to the touch
      • Inflammation
    • Often caused by prolonged sitting or appears as post-surgery complication
  • Tendonitis
    • Inflammation of the Achilles tendon
    • Often appears in people whose calf muscles are either weak or constantly in tension
    • Accompanied by intense pain and reduced range of movement
  • Standing for prolonged periods of time
    • Leads to the calf muscles becoming weak or tensed
    • Risk of damage because the tense muscles are also excessively stretched
    • Associated with pain
  • Nerve entrapment
    • If a nerve is entrapped in the area, then it can lead to pain and soreness in the calf muscles
    • Patients also describe a tingling sensation or numbness
    • May be accompanied by sensory modifications (reduced feeling in the foot)
  • Other causes
    • Baker’s Cyst
    • Peripheral vascular disease


These are the most common courses of treatment undertaken for sore calf muscles:

Anti-inflammatory medication

  • Recommended to bring pain relief
  • Also helps with the other symptoms, reducing the inflammation and sensation of soreness
  • Most recommended: acetaminophen, ibuprofen
  • Aspirin is recommended for muscle fever, but it should be taken with precaution, as it can lead to blood thinning

Ultrasound therapy

  • Can help by bringing pain relief and reducing inflammation
  • Recommended throughout the entire rehabilitation period
  • The ultrasound reach the muscles in the deep layers, stimulating the blood flow


  • Stimulates the blood flow to the injured calf muscles
  • Allows for the tension in the calf muscles to be reduced
  • Eliminates tight knots that commonly exist in overused muscles
  • Allows for scar tissue to become more supple
  • Promotes a faster healing process


  • In the early stage, it can help the muscle soreness to be improved
  • Includes gently stretching exercises that will increase the range of movement
  • In the latter stages of the rehabilitation program, you will work on strengthening the muscles of the calf, so as to prevent future problems.

Home remedies

If you suffer from sore calf muscles, then you have the perfect home remedy in the form of R.I.C.E. This abbreviation includes four measures that you can take, in order to improve your condition. These are:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

Their application starts with ice, which should be applied as soon as you feel the first symptoms. Do not apply ice directly to the skin; wrap it in a towel and then apply it to the sore muscles. It will help you deal with the pain, reducing the inflammation at the same time.

The next step is compression. There are special compression garments that can be applied over the sore calf muscles, being recommended for the reduction of inflammation. However, these should not be worn for more than 10 minutes at once, or else you will suffer from circulatory problems.

Elevation is essential for a fast recovery. Make sure that the lower leg is elevated, as this will relieve the tension you are feeling in the calf muscles. Last, but not least, make sure you get plenty of rest and avoid standing on the affected leg for prolonged periods of time.


Relief from sore calf muscles can be obtained by taking anti-inflammatory medication, doing ultrasound therapy and massage. It is also guaranteed through R.I.C.E, the home remedy you can certainly handle yourself. Keep in mind that the physiotherapy program is responsible for bringing you the most relief. This is because the program will start with gentle exercises, destined to reduce the tension you feel in your calves and it will progress to new stages. Soon, the exercise program is going to be more complex, encompassing exercises that are meant to stretch your calf muscles and strengthen them at the same time.

If you suffer from sore calf muscles, then do not hesitate to seek out the opinion of a doctor and a physiotherapist. The latter can guide you on future movements that should be avoided, so that you make sure such problems will not appear. He/she will also present with solutions to improve the muscle tension felt in the calves, discussing about the importance of making the right movements. Often times, this problem is caused by movements that are bad for the body. Repetitive bad movements can lead to sore calf muscles, so you need to learn how to avoid them.

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