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Causes of Calf Pain When Running on the Treadmill

by
author image Piper Li
Piper Li, a professional freelance writer, began writing in 1989. Her articles appear online at Biz Mojo, Walden University and various other websites. She is the co-editor for "Kansas Women: Focus on Health." With a bachelor's degree in journalism from Mesa State, Li enjoys writing about health, horticulture and business management.
Causes of Calf Pain When Running on the Treadmill
Incorrect form while running on a treadmilll can lead to sore calves. Photo Credit Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Running, jogging and overuse of the muscles can result in calf pain. Calf pain in runners is commonly due to muscle strain that occurs when muscle fibers tear. Your form while running on a treadmill can increase your risk of developing calf pain. Treating sore muscles and preventing further injuries can help make your treadmill routines comfortable and effective.

Treadmill Running

While treadmills provide a controlled environment for exercising, they can make you shift your weight and change your stride from your normal running gait. Trying to balance on the revolving surface of a treadmill can make you increase or decrease your forward lean which can affect your calf muscles. When you run on a track or on the road, you often unconsciously adjust your speed; on a treadmill, however, you move at the speed of the treadmill. If you are tired, slightly dehydrated or stressed, this speed may be faster than your calf muscles want to move that day, leading to soreness. Increasing the grade of an adjustable treadmill may focus more stress on your calves, increasing your risk of pain while working out on this piece of exercise equipment.

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Calf Muscles

Your calves have two main muscles. The soleus muscle helps you point your foot while the gastrocnemius muscle helps you to control your knee movements. During running, these two muscles work together to help you extend and retract your feet in a continuous running motion. Muscle strains in the calves can range in intensity and location. Pain near the lower calf is likely due to a strained soleus muscle, while pain throughout the entire calf region probably includes injury to the gastrocnemius muscle. A mild strain may only bother you slightly while you run, while a severe strain can make simple walking difficult.

Preventing Pain

Proper muscle preparation can help prevent muscle strain caused by running on a treadmill. Warming up your muscles with a series of basic movements, such as brisk walking or simple calisthenics, can help prepare your calves for the rigors of running. Gentle stretches help keep your muscles limber and can help you avoid muscle tears and joint injuries. Before hopping on the treadmill, do some dynamic calf stretches, such as gentle calf raises, to warm up your calf muscles. While you're on the treadmill, focus on your posture and try to avoid leaning. After your workout, do a static calf stretch, such as dropping your heel below the level of a step, to lengthen your muscles.

Treating Pain

The initial treatment for calf muscle strains involves the RICE method. This acronym stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Resting the muscle allows it time to recover. Applying an ice pack as soon as possible can help reduce swelling and intramuscular bleeding, limiting the extent of damage and lessening the discomfort. Compression involves wrapping the calf with an elastic sports bandage, while elevation helps drain the swelling and remove the added strain of your body weight. Recurrent calf pain or calf pain that doesn’t resolve with the RICE method may require a professional medical diagnosis and treatment. Avoid working out on the treadmill until your doctor gives you permission to resume your running routine.

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