The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles form the calf muscle; the gastrocnemius is a large muscle at the back of the lower leg which runs from above the knee joint to the heel, while the soleus is a smaller muscle that sits just below the gastrocnemius and runs from below the knee joint to the heel. The contractions of these muscles are responsible for many actions involving the lower leg. Strains are categorised according to the severity of the injury; a grade 1 strain will cause damage to only a few muscle fibres, while a grade 2 strain will usually involve a partial tear and a grade 3 will involve a total rupture.
Causes of calf strain
Calf strains are usually caused by sudden, quick movements which apply too much pressure to the muscle fibres. Other causes include frequent uphill running and a sudden increase in the intensity or number of training sessions.
Symptoms of calf strain
People with less serious strains may experience slight pain, while those with more serious strains will experience severe pain, which may feel like a burning sensation. Other symptoms include swelling, bruising and a restricted range of movement in the affected leg.
Treatment for calf strain
Initial treatment will almost always involve rest, ice, compression and elevation. More complex strains will take several weeks to heal fully, while minor strains will heal quickly with the help of anti-inflammatory medication, ice and rest. Physiotherapy will help to gradually increase strength in the muscle and surrounding tissues as well as increasing the range of movement in the affected leg.