It might have happened to you when you just finished your leg workout and a sudden pain burst out in your calves or after a football match, your calf won’t let you walk properly. There are a variety of conditions that can affect the calf muscles (known as gastrocnemius muscle anatomically) as well as the blood vessels and other structures around it. Fortunately many of the causes of calf pain are easily treatable. Different conditions and situations cause different calf pains including muscle cramp.
Calf muscle cramps
Calf muscle cramps are usually temporary but can cause significant pain and discomfort. Causes of calf muscle cramps include dehydration, loss of electrolytes through sweating, lack of stretching, prolonged physical activity, weak muscles.
Calf Muscle Strain
A calf muscle strain occurs when the muscle fibers in the calf tear either partially or completely. The symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the strain but most people will experience sudden sharp pain and tenderness at the calf muscle. A person may experience calf pain due to narrowing or blockages in the arteries that supply blood flow to the legs, this is known as arterial claudication. Arterial claudication may cause pain while walking, as this movement requires blood to flow to the lower legs, if the blood has difficulty moving due to narrowing claudication, a person may experience calf pain. A person with arterial claudication will experience no discomfort at rest but will feel the pain after a few minutes of walking.
Neurogenic claudication occurs when the nerves that go to the legs are pinched affecting their ability to communicate with the lower legs. Neurogenic claudication is often experienced due to a condition called spinal stenosis. This condition occurs when the bones in the spinal column narrows down placing extra pressure on the nerves. Sciatica is one example of neurogenic claudication. In addition to calf pain, neurogenic claudication symptoms include pain while walking, pain after prolonged standing, pain that also occurs in the thighs, lower back or buttocks, pain that usually improves when a person leans forward at the waist. A person may also experience calf pain from neurogenic claudication when at rest.
The achilles tendon is a tough fibrous band that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone if a person's calf muscles are especially tight. This may put extra pressure on the achilles tendon, as a result, a person can experience calf pain. People are more likely to experience achilles tendonitis if they have recently started an exercise program or they perform repetitive exercises. Frequent stretching can often help to reduce symptoms.
Compartment syndrome is a painful condition that can occur in the calf muscle or in both legs. Usually, after a person has experienced a trauma or severe injury, it occurs when excess blood or fluid builds up underneath a band of tough tissues in the body that cannot stretch very well. This fluid places extra pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the lower leg causing pain, swelling, numbness and tingling.
Another form of compartment syndrome is chronic or exertional compartment syndrome. This type occurs when a person experiences pain while exercising. Symptoms associated with chronic compartment syndrome include numbness, visible bulging or enlarging of muscles or trouble moving the foot.
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