What is Calf Muscle Pain?
The calf is made up of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles which connect with the Achilles tendon at the heel. Calf pain can differ from one individual to another depending on what causes the pain. It can manifest as either a dull ache or a sharp pain in the back of the lower leg. Mild to moderate pain may just be a result of exercise, overuse, or mild strains and may get better on its own. Calf pain accompanied by one or more of the symptoms listed below may indicate a more severe condition:
- Unusual coolness or paleness in the calf
- Tingling or numbness sensation in the calf and leg
- Sudden weakness in the leg
- Fluid retention
- Redness, warmth, and tenderness of the calf
It is recommended to consult your doctor if you have any of the symptoms in addition to your calf pain.
Some of the causes of calf pain include:
- Muscle cramp
Sudden contractions in the calf muscles can trigger intense calf pain lasting from a few seconds to several minutes at a time. Dehydration, exercise, injuries, and mineral deficiencies often contribute to calf muscle cramps.
- Muscle strain
Muscle strain is usually caused by fatigue, overuse, or using the calf muscle incorrectly. Exercises such as running, biking, and powerlifting can cause strain on your calf muscle.
- Achilles tendonitis
Overuse, strain, or stress on the Achilles tendon can cause inflammation, pain, and stiffness in the calf area.
Issues with the sciatic nerve can result in pain, numbness, and tingling sensation in the lower back and radiate down the leg to the calf muscles.
Bruising from trauma such as falls or impact on the calf muscle can result in discoloration and pain.
Other forms of severe illnesses such as diabetic peripheral neuropathy, deep vein thrombosis, and compartment syndrome can also cause calf pain. It is important to consult your doctor if you suffer from these conditions.
Calf pain caused by overuse or mild to moderate trauma may be treated at home. The RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) can be used to help prevent further damage and speed up healing. Some over the counter medications such as Ibuprofen can also help relieve pain temporarily. In addition, some gentle stretching or yoga can also help ease calf pain.
It is advisable to visit a doctor if the pain persists or becomes more severe after a few days or if the calf pain is caused by more severe injuries. Depending on your condition, the doctor may recommend medications, physical therapy, or surgery.
Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Perspective
There is a famous saying in Traditional Chinese medicine literature that “The legs of the human body are similar to the roots of a tree. The root will first become exhausted before the tree withers, the legs will first decline before a man becomes senile”.
The calves are regarded as the second heart of the human body. The calves act like a pump – through muscle contraction and pump action, the calves assist in transporting the blood in the lower limbs back up to the heart. If the calves are weak, that means the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body. The condition of the calves can also tell us about our health condition. For instance, calf cramps are often a warning sign of possible heart problems. The calves feeling cold or hot, stiff or inflexible, having nodules when being palpated, or having water retention or severe pain are all indications that the body is out of balance.
There are several important meridian points in the calf area. Meridians are channels through which Qi (energy) and blood flow throughout the body. The meridian points in the calf area correlate to other parts of the body and can be used to help improve conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, certain pain conditions, cold hands and feet, insomnia, menopause and others.
Chinese Medicine Approach to Calf Pain Treatment
Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes that pain symptoms (chronic or acute) are often related to organ imbalance. At Centre of Balance our practitioners will treat your calf pain by addressing the organ imbalance or other root cause that is causing your pain. From there they will use Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques such as acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine to bring your organs back into balance and relieve your pain. For more information about how Chinese Medicine can treat pain issues like calf pain, click here.
The calves have several important functions in the human body. They are not only an integral part of our leg structure that enables us to move and perform exercises, but from a Traditional Medicine perspective, they are our second heart and have connections to the rest of our body. At Centre of Balance, our practitioners have many years of experience treating calf pain patients with great results. Why not give us a call, have a chat with our expert team, and see how we can help you?