Most of the time, diagnosing a calf strain is something that should be left exclusively to the medical professionals. However, if you're unsure whether to run (or limp) to a medical professional with your latest injury, it might help to know which symptoms you need to watch out for. After all, though your compression calf sleeves might be beneficial at helping you get more out of your run, they might not be the only assistance you need in recovering from a serious leg injury.
Here, we'll teach you a little more about calf strains, what they are, what they feel like, and how to recognize whether you might be suffering from one yourself.
What is a Calf Strain?
The first step in diagnosing a calf strain, is understanding what you're dealing with. Calf strains happen when the muscle towards the back of the lower part of the leg is inflamed or damage as a result of excessive force or strain. The most common cause of this injury is overuse - particularly in individuals who regularly engage in running and jumping sports. Calf strains can be very common in athletes, and those who enjoy recreational activities like football, squash, and tennis.
In some cases, the calf may strain suddenly when the muscle is abnormally stretched, such as through an injury or damage to the leg.
The Symptoms of Calf Strain
As your doctor will tell you, diagnosing calf strain can sometimes be difficult, as the symptoms associated with this problem can vary from one patient to the next. However, most patients with calf strain feel an ache or soreness in the lower part of their leg, which can become more severe with continued activity. This pain occurs because the muscle is swollen, and inflamed, and in some severe cases, continued use can result in muscle spasms.
Some people with calf strains may also feel stiffness which becomes more evident after long periods of rest, and though the severity of the pain will differ according to the grade of the injury, you might also find that you have trouble walking as normal. The grades of calf strain are:
- Grade 1: Small tears in a few fibers that lead to small twinges of pain in the lower leg
- Grade 2: A substantial tear including numerous fibers that leads to significant pain in the lower leg, alongside bruising and swelling
- Grade 3: A huge tear resulting in muscle rupture and intense pain, as well as substantial swelling and bruising.
Treating a Calf Strain
After diagnosing a calf strain, your doctor should be able to offer advice on how to treat the problem. Usually, this involves avoiding activity that might worsen the current injury, and using the well-tested "RICE" method to prompt quicker recovery. The RICE method uses a combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation during the first seventy-two hours following the injury to help reduce further inflammation and allow for more rapid healing in the muscles and surrounding tissues.