Alleviating Calf Strain

February 17, 2020

Calf strain is one of the most common pain complaints by active Australians and can impact your daily life significantly.

What’s causing your calf pain?

Calf strains commonly occur due to a sudden contraction of the calf muscle. This frequently occurs when you attempt to accelerate from a stationary position, like jumping or when lunging forward. It’s no surprise that athletes playing sports such as rugby, soccer, netball commonly experience calf injuries. Occasionally, calf injuries can occur due to gradual wear and tear associated with overuse, so runners, and long-distance walkers are also at risk

What is a calf strain?

A calf strain is an injury characterised by tearing of one or more of the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg.

You might feel a sudden sharp pain or pulling sensation in the calf muscle at the time of injury. In minor strains, pain may be minimal allowing for continued activity. In more severe cases, you may experience severe pain, muscle spasm, weakness, and the inability to continue exercising. It may even result in an inability to walk without a limp or weight bear on the affected leg. Swelling, tenderness and bruising may also be present. There are three grades that we classify calf strain by.

Injury Classification

Grade 1 (mild) – a small number of muscle fibres are torn resulting in some pain, but allowing full function
Grade 2 (moderate) – a significant number of muscle fibres are torn with moderate loss of function
Grade 3 (severe)– all muscle fibres are ruptured resulting in major loss of function

How can a physio help?

Rehabilitation of soft tissue injuries can be complex. Over the years, acronyms guiding their management have evolved from ICE to RICE, then to PRICE and POLICE.

Rehabilitation should be conducted under the supervision of a professional due to the risk of injury recurrence. Recovery can often be a slow process. As pain decreases, gentle exercise and stretching can usually begin in addition to treatment recommended by your Physiotherapist.

The No HARM protocol should also be applied which includes no heat, alcohol, running or activity, and no massage. This will help ensure decreased bleeding and swelling in the injured area.

Always seek medical assistance

It is important to seek assessment and treatment from a medical professional to exclude other conditions common to the calf, such as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a potentially life-threatening condition that is caused by clotting in the leg veins.


The best ways to prevent calf strain is to keep the muscles strong – be fit and flexible, wear the right footwear and regularly do calf exercises as specified by a physiotherapist.

If you have a calf strain or deal with regular calf pain, please get in touch with SportsCare.

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