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Calf Strain

February 26, 2010

Calf Strain What is a calf strain?
How does it occur?
What are the symptoms?
How is it diagnosed?
How is it treated?
When can I return to my sport or actvity?
How can calf strains be prevented?

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What is a calf strain?
A strain is an injury in which muscle fibers or tendons are stretched or torn. People commonly call such an injury a “pulled” muscle.A calf strain is a injury to the muscles and tendons in the back of your leg below your knee.

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How does it occur?
A strain of your calf muscles can occur during a physical activity where you push off forcefully from your toes. It may occur in running,jumping,or lunging.

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What are the symptoms?
A calf muscle strain may cause immediate pain in the back of your lower leg.You may hear or feel a pop or snap.You may get the feeling that someone has hit you in the back of the leg. It will be hard to rise up on your toes. Your calf may be swollen and bruised.

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How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor will examine your lower leg.Your calf muscles will be tender.

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How is it treated?
Treatment may include:

  • – applying ice packs to your calf for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 or 3 days until the pain goes away
  • – elvating your leg on a pillow while you are lying down.
  • – wrapping an elastic bandage around your calf to kepp the swelling from getting worse
  • – using crutches,if it is too painful to walk
  • – taking anti-inflammatory medications
  • – getting physical therapy,which may include treatment of the muscle tissue by a therapist using ultasound or muscle stimulation
  • – having your doctor or therapist tape the injured muscles while they are healing to help you return the athletic activities
  • – doing rehabilitation exercise
  • While you are recovering from your injury,you will need to change your sport or activity to one that does not make your condition worse.For example,you may need to swim instead of run.

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    When can I return to my sport or actvity?
    The goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your sport or activity as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury,which could lead to permanent damage. Everyone recovers from injury at a different rate. Return to your activity will be determined by how soon your calf recovers,not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury occurred. In general,the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment,the longer it will take to get better. You may safely return to your sport or activity when,starting from the top of the list and progressing to the end,each of the following is true:

  • – You have full range of motion in the injured leg compared to the uninjured leg.
  • – You have full strength of the injured leg compared to the uninjured leg.
  • – You can jog straight ahead with out pain or limping.
  • – You can sprint straight ahead without pain or limping.
  • – You can do 45-degree cuts,first at half-speed,then at full-speed.
  • – You can do 20-yard figures-of-eight,first at half-speed,then at full-speed.
  • – You can do 10-yard figures-of-eight,first at half-speed,then at full-speed.
  • – You can jump on both legs without pain and you can jump on the injured leg without pain.
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    How can calf strains be prevented?
    Calf strains are best prevented by warming up properly and doing calf-stretching exercises before your activity. This is especially important if you are doing jumping or sprinting sports.

    Information provided by: Pierre Rouzier,M.D. The Sports Medicine PATIENT ADVISOR

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