Sore or TIGHT Calf Muscles? This is WHY They Hurt So Much and What You Can Do

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We’ve all experienced sore calf muscles—often the telltale sign is seeing someone grab for the back of their leg! There are many reasons why someone might experience sore or tight calf muscles, or general calf muscle pain. Thankfully, dealing with sore calves is not necessary because there are treatments available.

Simple stretching before performing an activity can help prevent injury and strain.  Reasons for pain in the calf muscles include an injury (whether from sports or vigorous activity), a medical condition that you might not be aware of, or a nerve issue. The level of pain felt varies from person to person, as does the reason for sore and tight calves, but the most common factor is weakness and some degree of pain, typically made worse by walking.

Common Causes of Sore Calf Muscles

Sore calf muscles can happen out of the blue and without warning or it can happen gradually over time. The causes of sore calf muscles can include:

  • Age
  • Using the calf muscle too much
  • An injury to the calf muscle

Struggling to come up with a reason as to why the calf muscles are sore can be frustrating, particularly if the calf muscle pain develops slowly.

There are two main reasons for calf muscle pain: injury and an underlying medical condition. Figure out which category your pain falls under. An injury happens when you use the muscles too much, resulting in straining or even pulling it, and possibly tearing the muscles. Walking and standing on the leg with the injury will only result in increasing the discomfort.

Medical causes for sore and painful calves can be the result of a torn Achilles tendon. If the tender area feels warm then it is a good indication there is a medical reason for the calf pain. The following are general causes for calf pain:

  • A trapped nerve: Basically where nerves are compressed and trapped and they react by sending signals that are received as pain.
  • Baker’s cyst: An inflammation of a sac that sits behind the knee. The cyst on its own can cause pain, but even more so if it bursts.
  • Achilles tendonitis: Inflammation of this tendon can cause calf muscle pain; it can take months to heal.
  • Calf injury: This is the most common reason for calf pain and usually results from some kind of sporting activity.
  • Calf cramps: These cramps, often called a “charley horse”, wake people up in the middle of the night. People will often experience a spasm in the calf muscle.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): DVT is a blood clot and requires immediate medical attention. Pain, redness, swelling and warmth around the tender area are clear indications of DVT and should be looked at.
  • Muscle imbalance: The imbalance refers to tightness and weakness in the calf muscle; it can happen when standing on your feet for a long time. Stretching and working the muscles regularly will help resolve this issue.
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD): PVD happens when the arteries narrow and cause blood to flow slowly.

Signs and Symptoms of Sore Calf Muscles

Depending on the type of injury and whether it is a medical concern instead, the signs and symptoms associated with sore calf muscles can vary. Overall, the first indication will be pain on some level and an inability to stand or walk on that leg to varying degrees. The more strained/torn/injured the muscle is, the more difficult it will be to manage carrying on with regular activities. Taking the weight off the leg will ease the discomfort.