Calf strain or tear
What is it?
A calf strain, commonly called a ‘pulled’ muscle, is caused by overstretching or tearing of either of the 2 calf muscles – the soleus and the gastrocnemius.
A calf strain usually starts with sudden pain in the back of the lower leg. A pop, snap or tearing sensation may be felt. Occasionally, with a severe tear, it may feel like you have been shot in the back of the leg. Afterwards, the calf may swell and it will be difficult to rise up onto the toes. The calf will be painful and tender and will feel weak and stiff. Bruising usually occurs within a day or 2 of the injury.
Calf strain occurs during activities that involve pushing off on the toes, such as running or jumping, or sports that require explosive muscle contractions, such as tennis, squash or football.
It is recommended that initial treatment comprises:
- compression; and
Anti-inflammatory medicines may be used.
After 48 hours, stretching and strengthening exercises should be started. Heel raises and calf stretches form the basis of these exercises and should be gradually progressed in number of repetitions and load before returning to sport.
In general, a person should have a full range of motion of the ankle and knee, a painless stretch of the calf, no tenderness of the muscle and full calf strength before returning to full activity.
Last Reviewed: 25/09/2015
Brukner P, Khan KQC. Brukner & Khanâ€™s Clinical Sports Medicine. McGraw-Hill.
Leg (knee to ankle) - superficial posterior view
View the calf muscles and achilles tendon in this illustration of the lower leg.
Hamstring strain or tear
A hamstring strain or tear involves over-stretching or tearing one or more of the 3 hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh.
Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon. It can be caused by overly tight calf muscles and excessive uphill or downhill running, amongst other things.
Posterior tibial tendon injury
Posterior tibial tendonitis occurs when the posterior tibial tendon becomes inflamed or torn, causing pain on the inside of the shin, ankle or foot.
Stretching: an illustrated guide
Stretching exercises encourage lengthening of your muscles and their associated tendons, and oppose the shortening and tightening of muscles that can occur immediately after vigorous exercise, and as a product of ageing and inactivity.