The gorgeous calf muscles that can create shapely legs are also prone to injury. The two muscles that make up the calf -- the gastrocnemius and soleus -- flex your ankle and foot, and the repetitive flexing that goes along with running can make old injuries worse and sometimes create new injuries. If you experience severe pain in your calf, consult your doctor, but minor pains can often be treated at home.
Running, particularly on pavement, is a high-impact sport that can irritate your joints. This pain can travel up the leg and cause your calves to be sore and tender. The repeated flexing of your ankle and knee can also result in strains and sprains, particularly if you're new to running, out of shape or overexert yourself. Delayed-onset muscle soreness, a form of muscle pain that occurs 12 to 72 hours after exercise, can also cause calf pain. Rarely, calf pain can indicate a more serious condition. If you feel throbbing deep in your calf, this could be due to a blood clot or other blood vessel problem. If you haven't changed your running routine or have fallen or overexerted yourself recently, calf pain could be cause for alarm.
One of the best things you can do for injured calves is to avoid exerting yourself until the pain goes away. Whether pain is caused by an injury or just delayed-onset muscle soreness, pushing yourself to run can make the pain worse and cause more injuries. Rest, ice, compression and elevation of your calf, particularly in the first few hours after the pain starts, can also help. Try gently massaging your calf and looking for muscle knots. If you find any, press on these knots to loosen up your muscles. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can reduce inflammation and temporarily relieve pain.
If pain gets worse after a day or two or is severe, talk to your doctor. Some serious sprains may require physical therapy or a different exercise routine. If you have a blood clot in your leg, your doctor will do an MRI to locate the clot and may give you blood thinners or perform surgery. Your doctor can also write you a prescription for pain medication to alleviate the pain of injuries.
A brief warm-up before you begin full-speed running can loosen up tense muscles and reduce your risk of pain and injury. Try briskly walking or jogging for five to 10 minutes, and then stretch your legs before taking off running. Properly fitted running shoes can ensure that your feet hit the ground evenly and safely and that you maintain good posture and balance. If you have joint problems, cushioning insoles can reduce the impact of running on your joints and prevent pain from traveling up your legs.
- ExRx.net: Soleus
- ExRx.net: Gastrocnemius
- MayoClinic.com: Leg Pain
- Trigger Point Therapy for Myofascial Pain; Donna Finando et al.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.