Stiff Calf After Doing Calf Raises

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A woman is stretching her calf muscles outside. (Image: michaelpuche/iStock/Getty Images)

Calf raises strengthen your calf muscles, which are the soleus, gastrocnemius and plantaris. Over-exerting your calf muscles along with poor flexibility can result in calf tightness or stiffness and injury. Treatment consists of rest, ice and light stretches. Consult your physician if you have pain or persistent symptoms.

Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps are common in your calf muscles, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Muscle cramps are when your calf muscles contract uncontrollably, resulting in calf tightness and intense pain. Performing calf raises after a high-intensity workout or with additional resistance like dumbbells can lead to cramping. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances like low sodium may increase your risk of sustaining a muscle cramp in your calf as well.

Muscle Strain

A forceful contraction of your calf muscles during calf raises can cause a muscle strain or tear. A muscle strain can be a partial tear of your calf muscle or in severe cases a complete rupture. Symptoms of a muscle strain include calf stiffness, pain and swelling. Fatigue, weak calf muscles and inflexibility can increase your risk of sustaining a calf muscle strain. Although any one of your calf muscles can tear, the gastrocnemius muscle is more susceptible to strains, according to a 2009 article in the journal Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine.

Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome

Your lower leg is separated into compartments, with your calf muscles in the posterior compartment. With the exertion of exercise, your calf muscles can swell and build-up pressure in the compartment. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is when too much pressure is in the posterior compartment, restricting blood flow and oxygen to your muscles. Symptoms include calf tightness, a burning or aching feeling and numbness or tingling.

Treatment

To decrease any swelling and pain, follow the acronym RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Calf-stretches, orthotics and over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen might also help reduce stiffness and pain. Additional treatments include physical therapy and massage therapy. If you suspect you have chronic exertional compartment syndrome, consult your physician immediately. Surgery or a fasciotomy may be recommended. A fasciotomy is when the tissue separating the compartments in your calf is surgically cut to release the pressure.

Prevention

To prevent additional calf stiffness and injury, increase your repetitions, sets and resistance slowly. Warm up your muscles with a five-minute walk or jog prior to exercising, and stretch your calf muscles afterwards to maintain flexibility. The standing calf stretch, for example, is performed in a staggered stance with your injured leg back. Slowly lean or lunge forward while keeping your back heel down. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat one to three times. To prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, drink at least eight glasses of water daily and eat a well-balanced diet.

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