Munson Health
 
Calf Muscle Strain

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by LaRusso L

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

 

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
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.
 

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Recovery time ranges depending on the grade of your injury. Treatment steps may include:

Acute Care

Rest
Your muscle will need time to heal. Avoid activities that place extra stress on these muscles:
  • Do not do activities that cause pain. This includes running, jumping, and weight lifting using the leg muscles.
  • If normal walking hurts, shorten your stride.
  • Do not play sports until your doctor has said it is safe to do so.
Cold
Apply an ice or a cold pack to the area for 15-20 minutes, four times a day, for several days after the injury. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel.
Pain Relief Medications
To manage pain, your doctor may recommend:
  • Over-the-counter medication, such as aspirin , ibuprofen , or acetaminophen
  • Topical pain medication—creams or patches that are applied to the skin
  • Prescription pain relievers
Compression
Compression can help prevent more swelling. Your doctor may recommend an elastic compression bandage around your calf. Be careful not to wrap the bandage too tight.
Elevation
Elevation can also help keep swelling down. Keep your leg higher than your heart as much as possible for the first 24 hours or so. A couple of days of elevation might be recommended for severe strains.

Recovery Steps

Heat
Use heat only when you are returning to physical activity. Heat may then be used before stretching or getting ready to play sports to help loosen the muscle.
Stretching
When the acute pain is gone, start gentle stretching as recommended. Stay within pain limits. Hold each stretch for about 10 seconds and repeat six times. Stretch several times a day.
Strengthening
Begin strengthening exercises for your muscles as recommended.
You may be referred to for physical therapy
If you are diagnosed with a calf muscle strain, follow your doctor's instructions .
 

RESOURCES

American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor
http://www.aafp.org

American Council on Exercise
http://www.acefitness.org

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

Healthy U
http://www.healthyalberta.com

 

References


Armfield DR. Sports-related muscle injury in the lower extremity. Clin Sports Med . 2006;25(4):803-42.


Calf strain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated November 3, 2012. Accessed April 26, 2013


Campbell JT. Posterior calf injury. Foot Ankle Clin . 2009 Dec;14(4):761-771.


Douis H, Gillett M, et al. Imaging in the diagnosis, prognostication, and management of lower limb muscle injury. Semin Musculoskelet Radiol . 2011 Feb;15(1):27-41.


Johns Hopkins sports medicine patient guide to muscle strain. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsortho.org/muscle%5Fstrain.html . Accessed April 26, 2013.


Sprains, strains, and tears. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/sprains-strains-and-tears.pdf . Accessed April 26, 2013.


1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev . 2010;(6):CD007402.

 

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