Calf Muscle Strain

(Pulled Calf Muscle; Gastrocnemius Strain; Gastrocnemius Tear; Gastrocnemius Muscle Injury)

Definition

A calf muscle strain is a partial or complete tear of the small fibers of the muscles. The calf muscles are located in the back of your lower leg.
The Calf Muscles
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Causes

A calf muscle strain can be caused by:
  • Stretching the calf muscles beyond the amount of tension they can withstand
  • Suddenly putting stress on the calf muscles when they are not ready for the stress
  • A direct blow to the calf muscles

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of developing a calf muscle strain:
  • Participation in sports that require bursts of speed. This includes track sports like running, hurdles, or long jump. Other sports include basketball, soccer, football, or rugby.
  • Previous strain or injury to the area
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Tight calf muscles
  • Poor conditioning

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:
  • Pain and tenderness in the calf
  • Stiffness in the calf muscles
  • Weakness of the calf muscles
  • Pain when pushing off the foot or standing on tiptoe
  • Bruising on the calf
  • Popping sensation as the muscle tears

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Most calf muscle strains can be diagnosed with a physical exam. Images may be needed of the area if severe damage is suspected. Images may be taken with MRI scan or ultrasound. Muscle strains are graded according to their severity:
  • Grade 1—Some stretching with micro-tearing of muscle fibers
  • Grade 2—Partial tearing of muscle fibers
  • Grade 3—Complete tearing of muscle fibers; this may also be called a rupture or avulsion

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