What is calf pain?

Calf pain is any feeling of discomfort in the fleshy tissue on the back side of the lower leg, from below the knee to above the ankle. Your calves are made up of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels, all of which are subject to injury, infection, or other conditions that can be painful.

Calf pain may last briefly or be constant. It may affect your entire calf or only a localized area. Your pain may feel dull and achy, throbbing, piercing, or tingling. Pain-like sensations that are often described as pins-and-needles, prickling, or burning are called paresthesias. Calf pain may be simply irritating and uncomfortable or so debilitating that you can’t put weight on your leg or walk.

Calf pain can arise from a variety of conditions ranging from accidental trauma to nerve conditions. Calf pain in the absence of trauma or other symptoms is commonly due to a muscle cramp, also called a “charley horse.” However, there are more serious conditions that lead to calf pain, such as peripheral artery disease.

Calf pain can be due to deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in the leg), which is a serious and life-threatening condition. The blood clot can break loose and cause a pulmonary embolism in the lung, a heart attack, or a stroke.  If you, or someone you are with, are experiencing calf or leg pain after mild exercise or exertion, or if you are experiencing pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the calf, seek immediate medical care (call 911).

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with calf pain?

Other symptoms may occur with calf pain depending on the underlying disease, disorder, or condition. For example, a soft tissue infection or inflammation in the calf might be accompanied by redness or warmth in the area. Calf pain due to a pulled muscle may be associated with swelling from fluid buildup. Other symptoms that may accompany calf pain include:

CAUSES

What causes calf pain?

Most calf pain is due to overuse, injury, and age-related wear and tear on the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the calf. Usually these conditions are not serious, and you can largely prevent and treat overuse and minor injuries with self-care and lifestyle changes. For example, proper rest between periods of exertion and abstaining from extreme sports without proper conditioning are two pract... Read more about calf paincauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 1, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles, Heart Attack, Stroke


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