The calf muscle is located on the back bottom part of the leg. There are many reasons you can develop calf pain. They can occur due to nighttime cramps, from a torn or pulled muscle or be a signal of a circulatory problem. The first step is to have your calf pain evaluated by your doctor to rule out serious conditions. Once you know what is causing your pain, you and your doctor can discuss the appropriate treatments for your calf muscle pain.
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Calf Muscle Pulls or Strains
If you participate in activities that require repetitive jumping, running, pounding, starting and stopping, you may pull or strain your calf. The Mount Sinai Medical Center states that treatment depends on the severity of your injury. If your muscle pull is mild, a period of ice, rest, compression, elevation and avoiding the activities that caused your pain may resolve your symptoms. This may take a few weeks. If your injury is moderate, it may take longer. In addition, a moderate sprain may require inflammatory and pain medications to help calm your symptoms. With severe injuries, your doctor may put you in a cast to immobilize the area for a period of time. If your injury does not respond to any of the above, surgery may be required to repair your calf muscle. The goal is to seek treatment as soon as you notice calf pain. The sooner your start treatment, the faster you will heal.
Nighttime Calf Cramps
Cramps in your calf in the middle of the night are painful and can disrupt your sleep. This can lead to daytime fatigue and difficulty concentrating. They occur when your calf muscles contract abruptly or spasm with no known medical cause. The muscle may feel tight and hard. When the cramp occurs the Stanford University suggests gently stretching by flexing your foot and pulling the toes back. Take slow deep breaths as you hold the stretch. Try to relax the muscle. Applying heat and giving yourself a gentle massage may also help. Sometimes, you may need to get up and place weight on the leg. To help avoid nighttime cramps, make sure you drink enough water and consume enough potassium. A lack of either one can contribute to muscle cramps and calf pain.
Circulatory Calf Problems
If plaque builds up on the artery walls in the blood vessels in your legs, you may develop peripheral artery disease (PAD). The main symptom of PAD is cramping or pain in the calves when moving. The cramps occur during activity because your arteries are blocked, and your leg muscles are not getting the blood and oxygen they need to keep moving. Rest usually alleviates the cramps. To manage this condition, you will need the same treatment approach that is used for coronary artery disease. You will need to eat less fat and cholesterol, get regular exercise, lose excess weight and quit smoking. If the blockage is severe, you may need medication to help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. If you have a significant blockage, you may need surgery to clean out the artery.
If you spend a great deal of time on your feet, you may develop varicose veins. With this condition, your veins become enlarged and bluish in color. They develop a spider- or web-like appearance. While in many cases varicose veins do not cause symptoms, they can cause calf pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, getting regular exercise, losing excess weight, avoiding prolonged periods of standing and using compression stockings can help to relieve your symptoms. If your varicose veins do not respond to lifestyle changes and your symptoms become severe, your physician may recommend surgery.