If you're struggling with how to heal a strained calf muscle, here are some tips to help you treat a strained or pulled calf muscle quickly! Getting a strain in your calf is a common issue for runners, sprinters, and other athletes who rely on fast bursts of speed and strength.
But what does a strained calf mean, how can you treat it, and when can you get back to training again? Calf strains are one of the most common athletic injuries, especially for runners. They can be caused by sudden acceleration or changes in direction while running or sprinting. Strained calves are usually due to an imbalance in strength between your two calves.
The weaker side can’t cope with the stress placed on it during exercise, causing the stronger side to take over too much and pull its smaller companion with it.
A strained calf is an injury to the main tendon that connects your gastrocnemius (your larger calf muscle) and soleus (the smaller muscle underneath your gastroc). When this happens, there is also almost always a weakness in one or both of these muscles. If you know what to look out for, you can prevent it from happening again before it gets too bad. Let’s see what we can do about this…
Identifying a Strained Calf
A strained calf muscle is usually quite easy to identify. You will experience sudden pain in your calf muscle during or after a run. The pain will be felt in the back of your lower leg, up towards your knee. This is usually felt only on one side, most likely the weaker calf. Your smaller calf will also be visibly larger and swollen compared to the other one. You may also feel a tightness in the back of your calf and a popping sensation as you try to stretch out your calf muscles. If you have an acute calf strain, you will likely hear popping and snapping sounds as you try to stretch out the muscle. Those sounds indicate that you have pulled a muscle and should take immediate steps to heal the injury.
One of the most common symptoms of a strained calf muscle is a sharp pain in the back of the lower leg (below the knee) during or after exercise. If this pain is accompanied by swelling or bruising, it’s possible that you have a more serious injury, like a tear of the muscle. It’s important to get this checked out by a doctor. Other signs that your calf may have been strained include:
1. A feeling of tightness in the calf
2. Irritation in the lower leg
3. A feeling that the muscle is very heavy
4. Difficulty pushing off with your foot at the end of a run or sprint
5. Difficulty climbing stairs
Causes of a Strained Calf Muscle
A strained calf muscle can occur when you suddenly change to a more demanding running style, such as moving from a jog to a sprint, or when you change running surfaces, like from a track to a softer, looser trail. You can also strain your calves by lifting heavy weights with your legs, such as using heavy squats or lunges. If one of your calves is weaker than the other and it is not addressed and strengthened properly, a strain can occur. A strain can also happen due to a misalignment or overpronation in your foot, or if you are wearing worn-out or inappropriate shoes.
There are a few things that increase your risk of developing a strained calf muscle. These include:
1. Not warming up before exercise
2. Not stretching before exercise
3. Not correcting any imbalances in strength between your two calves
4. Running or sprinting with poor form
5. Improper footwear
6. Not having adequate recovery time between workouts
7. Not consuming enough water
How Do You Heal a Strained Calf Muscle?
There are three steps to healing a strained calf muscle. First, let the pain subside, and don’t try to go back to your usual activity too quickly because you’ll just end up re-injuring it and making it worse. After a day or two of rest, start stretching your calf. Do it once a day and try to stretch it to its maximum point where you feel a good, healthy, but mild pain.
How to Treat a Strained or Pulled Calf Muscle?
Calf strengthening exercises will also help the healing process and prevent the injury from recurring. You can do this while sitting down, but it’s best to do it while standing. Walk up and down off the balls of your feet and concentrate on trying to feel your soleus muscle contract and relax. Other things to healing a strained calf muscle include:
- Rest - The most important thing you can do after injuring yourself is to rest. A strained calf muscle will heal best if you stop stressing it.
- Ice - Applying an ice pack to the injured area can help to reduce inflammation and swelling. This will help to speed up the healing process.
- Compression - Wrapping your calf with an elastic bandage will help to reduce swelling, which can help you to start walking again sooner.
- Elevation - Putting your foot up on a pillow or couch will help to reduce blood flow to the area, which will help to reduce swelling.
- Diet - You can support your body’s healing process by eating a balanced diet, rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.
- Sleep - Sleep is crucial for muscle recovery, so if you’re getting less than the recommended amount, you’re more likely to strain a muscle.
- Stretch - This will reduce the likelihood of re-injuring the muscle.
- Massage - Massaging the affected area can help break up any scar tissue and speed up the healing process.
- Strengthen - Strengthening the muscles around the calf can help prevent re-injury.
Fastest Way to Heal a Strained Calf Muscle
To heal your strained calf muscle as quickly as possible, you need to keep it moving. This is especially true when the injury is still fresh. You need to keep the surrounding blood vessels moving, which will help to bring oxygen to the muscle and promote healing. You should aim to walk every day, increasing your distance as your pain allows.
How to Heal a Strained Calf Muscle Quickly?
As you get closer to being back to full health, you can start to add a little bit of gentle running into your routine. You also need to get your muscle moving through its full range of motion. If the muscle is too tight, it may be pulling on the tendon, which will prolong your healing time. You should be careful not to overdo it, but a few gentle stretches every day will go a long way toward helping you get back to normal.
How to Heal a Pulled Calf Muscle?
If you have experienced a sudden, acute calf strain, the fastest way to heal a strained calf muscle depends on the severity of the strain. You should rest for at least one or two days, and then gradually increase your exercise and stretching routine. If the pain lasts for more than two days, or if the pain is increasing instead of subsiding, it is a sign that you should see a doctor.
How to Heal a Pulled Muscle in Your Calf?
If the injury is minor, it will heal on its own after a couple of weeks provided you do the right things to help it heal. You will need to give your calf muscles time to heal and you should avoid putting any excess stress on your calf muscle. Avoid common activities that can put a strain on your calf muscle, including:
1. Running outside on soft or uneven surfaces.
2. Standing on your toes.
3. Stepping up or down with your toes curled under.
How to Heal a Torn Calf Muscle?
If you’ve torn your calf muscle, you won’t fully heal until the tear has repaired itself. The healing process can take anywhere between two weeks and three months, depending on the severity of the tear.
As with a strain, you should consult a doctor to make sure you don’t need surgery, and you’ll probably be prescribed rest and ice, with the potential addition of crutches if the healing process is taking longer than expected. You can also try using a leg brace to support your calf muscle until it heals. In addition, you can try using low-impact exercises like cycling or swimming to help you stay active while you’re recovering.
You must let the pain subside before you start exercising again. You can use ice to relieve pain and swelling, and you can use various stretching exercises to help with healing. Calf strengthening exercises are also important to help with healing and are especially useful if you have a pulled calf muscle.
How Long to Heal a Torn Calf Muscle?
On average, you can expect to recover from a moderate to a severe calf strain in about two months. However, there are many factors that could influence your recovery time. These include your age, the severity of the strain, your diet, your level of motivation, and whether you have any other health conditions.
Calf Strain Recovery Time
The healing process for a torn calf muscle is similar to that of a strained calf muscle. You must rest the injury and let the pain subside before starting a treatment routine. If you have torn your calf muscle, you will need to allow for a longer healing time, up to six months in some cases. Keep in mind that your calf muscle will never be 100% healed after a tear. It will always be weaker than your other calf muscles and you need to be aware of that and take steps to protect it moving forward.
You can help to speed up the process by increasing your intake of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids by taking supplements. You can also try massaging the injured area using a deep tissue massage gun with interchangeable heads, as this can help to clear out the lactic acid build-up that is causing the pain. Exercises such as cycling and swimming can also help you stay active while you’re recovering while helping to maintain your fitness level.
Exercises to Heal a Strained Calf
There are various exercises you can do to help heal a strained calf muscle. Start with low-impact exercises, as well as a few stretches, and then slowly progress to more demanding workouts. You can try these exercises to heal a strained calf muscle.
- Calf Stretch with Wall - Stand about 2 feet from a wall, and place the toes of your injured leg about a foot away from the wall.
- Calf Stretch with Thera-band - Stand on the band with your toes curled under, and slowly push your heel back to a stretch sensation.
- Calf Strengthening with Thera-band - Put your toes on the edge of a step, and let the ball of your foot sit on the step.
- Leg Swings - Start by swinging your leg back and forth as if you’re kicking a football. This low-impact exercise is great for warming up your calves before you do more intense exercises, and it can also help to reduce the risk of injury.
- Heel Drops - Standing with your legs about a foot apart, put your weight on your heels. Then, drop down onto your heels as if you’re sitting down in a chair. Repeat this 10 times.
- Wall Squats - Stand with your back against a wall and your legs straight. Then, slowly lower yourself until you’re in a squatting position. Hold this position for 30 seconds, and repeat three times.
- Calf Raises - Find a step or surface you can stand on that is about 12 inches high. Stand on the step with both legs, and slowly rise up onto your tiptoes. Hold the position for 10 seconds and slowly lower yourself back down. Repeat 10 times.
- Shoe Lifts - If you’ve got a weak calf, you can prevent further injury by lifting your heel. Put a shoe lift (or something similar) in your shoe, and you can perform exercises more easily and with less pain.
Stretching Exercises for a Strained Calf
Stretching is a great way to prevent another strain in your calves, as well as speed up the healing process of an existing strain.
How to Stretch a Pulled Calf Muscle?
To treat a pulled calf muscle, you will want to start with resting, icing, and elevating your leg as much as possible to reduce swelling and pain. You can also try compression socks to improve blood flow. If you feel any sharp pains or your symptoms do not improve within a few days, you should visit your doctor to make sure you do not have a more serious issue like a muscle tear or stress fracture.
You will also want to begin a stretching routine to prevent this from happening again. Below are a few stretches you can do to help ease the discomfort of a pulled calf muscle and speed up healing time.
- Standing Quad Stretch - Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders and your toes pointed forward. Bend your right knee and raise your right foot behind you until you feel a slight stretch in your right thigh. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then switch legs and do the same on the other side.
- Seated Calf Stretch - Sit on a hard chair with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly lean backward until you feel a stretch in your calves. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then switch legs and do the same on the other side.
- Wall-Assisted Calf Stretch - Stand a foot away from a wall with your heels about an inch from the wall. Slowly lower yourself until you feel a stretch in your calves, then hold that position for 30 seconds.
Massage and Relaxation Technique for Strained Calf Muscle
If you are recovering from a strained calf muscle, it can be helpful to get a massage. A sports massage can be extremely helpful, as the massage therapist will be able to work out any knots or tightness in your calf. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to relax afterward. Try to avoid busy places and loud noises. Try to avoid getting on your phone or computer. Take a nice, hot bath, put on some soothing music, and try to let all your worries float away.
A relaxed state of mind will help you heal much faster, and getting rid of any knots in your calf can help you get back to your regular routine even sooner.
How to Self Massage Your Calf Muscle?
You can try a massage and relaxation technique for the strained calf muscles.
- Place a hot towel on your calf to help relieve pain and swelling.
- Use massage techniques to help break up adhesions and speed up the healing process.
- Practice deep breathing and visualization exercises to help calm your nervous system and promote healing.
How to Relieve Pain From a Pulled Calf Muscle?
If you’re experiencing pain from a pulled calf muscle, you should apply a cold compress to reduce swelling and alleviate pain. You can also take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen to help ease the pain and reduce swelling. Be careful not to overdo it, though, as too many anti-inflammatory drugs can actually make your pain worse.
If you’ve strained your calf muscle, you are probably feeling a lot of pain. Here are some ways to ease the discomfort while you’re waiting to heal:
1. Apply an ice pack or ice in a plastic bag wrapped in a towel
2. Use a pain-relieving gel or balm
3. Wrap the calf in an elastic bandage
4. Avoid swelling by keeping your leg raised
5. Take pain-relieving medication
6. Stretch the muscle regularly
7. Avoid activities that put a lot of strain on the calf muscle
8. Stay hydrated to avoid cramping
9. Get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue
10. Eat well.
You should also stay off your feet as much as possible until the pain subsides. Avoid any activities that would put extra strain on your calves, such as stair climbing and squatting. Learn also how to relieve a knot in your calf muscle.