Calf pain can come from any of your thigh, calf or shin muscles also your knee and ankle joints. To establish where exactly the thigh pain is, can be very helpful at identifying what structure is causing the pain. Calf pain can be caused by any of the muscles, tendons or joints, so let’s look at the different types of structures in the thigh:
A Calf muscle strain is probably the most common cause of calf pain. The calf muscle group consists of two muscles – the Gastrocnemius muscle which is the big muscle at the back of the lower leg and the Soleus muscle which is a smaller muscle lower down in the leg and lies underneath the gastrocnemius.
Your larger Gastrocnemius starts from the thigh bone (femur) above the knee joint and inserts into the heel bone via the achilles tendon. When the muscle contracts it assists the hamstrings in bending the knee but its main function is to point toes and ankle downwards towards the floor. This is the same movement as standing up onto your tip-toes, or like a calf raise. The Gastrocnemius is the most powerful muscle of the calf that produces propulsion during movement such as sprinting and jumping. A medial gastrocnemius muscle injury is often referred to as “Tennis Leg”.
Your Soleus muscle originates below the knee joint from the tibia and fibula (shin bones) and also inserts (like gastrocnemius) into to the back of the heel via the Achilles tendon. When the Soleus muscle contracts it also points your toes and ankle downwards, but unlike gastrocnemius it has no effect on bending the knee.
If the Soleus muscle is damaged as opposed to the gastrocnemius, the pain is usually lower down the leg but is not painful when attempting to bend the knee (unlike gastrocnemius). The soleus muscle is the main calf muscle that gives us the ability to run for long periods (endurance activities).
Either of these two muscles can be injured but the usually the injury occurs at the junction where the muscle meets the Achilles tendon called the “musculotendinous junction”.
Nerve supply to the calf mainly comes from the sciatic nerve at the back. Irritation, compression or impingement of these nerves can cause nerve pain in your calf. Sciatica is also a condition that can cause a nerve type of calf pain at the back of the leg, all the way to your toes.
Tendons are cables that anchors the bone to muscle tot the bone. Every muscle has a tendon on either side of the muscle, the one at at the top called the proximal tendon and one at the bottom, called the distal tendon. Any one or multiple tendons can become irritated causing a inflamed tendon and in the calf we have the Achilles tendon that anchors both heads of the Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles to the Calcaneus (heel bone). An Achilles tendinitis can progress to a tendinopathy, this is a state when your body stops repairing the injured tendon fibers and the risk of a complete tendon is very high.
Claf pain is extremely common therefore we have helped many patient relieve their pain. Calf injuries usually occur as a result of a sudden pushing off movement like jumping, or from excessive over-stretching of the calf muscles while it needs to contract like running up a hill.
If you are suffering from calf pain, rather get it checked. Please do not delay in consulting your physiotherapist if you have injured your calf. Rather do something about it and get it looked at, than wait with your fingers crossed and hope it goes away.
An accurate diagnosis is vital to manage your pain and treat it appropriately, because what works for one problem rarely works for another. Many conditions can take many months or even years to heal when the diagnosis is incorrect or treatment is neglected.
Calf Pain can be
Causes of Calf pain
Calf pain is one of the most common leg complaints that we see in your practice. Your calves contains some very powerful muscles in your body, not to mention you use them every day. We rely on your calf muscles in every step we take. The structures in the calf is vulnerable to injury especially overuse injuries i.e. repetitive movements like a walking, climbing stairs and running.
Thigh pain may be caused by:
- Overload – Muscle or tendon strains and sprains.
- Overuse – Tendon inflammation, repetitive muscle strains
- Poor management of a previous injury
- Referral from other joints – Knee or ankle joint
- Trauma – Contusions, or Tibia fractures
- Autoimmune – Rheumatoid arthritis
- Referral from nerves – Irritation, compression of the sciatic nerve branches.
Thigh Pain Treatment
- Acupuncture & Dry Needling
- Heat packs (Thermal therapy)
- Kinesiology Tape
- Rigid Strapping or taping
- Neurodynamics (Nerve tissue mobilizations)
- Dynamic Strapping
- Strengthening exercises
- Guided loading protocol
- Stretches (Static, dynamic and ballistic)
- Moon boot
- Compression Bandage or Sleeve
- Supportive strapping and taping
- Biomechanical Analysis
- Gait Analysis