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Calf Muscle Strain

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

Definition

A calf muscle strain is a partial or complete tear of the small fibers of the muscles. The calf muscles are located in the back of your lower leg.
The Calf Muscles
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Causes

A calf muscle strain can be caused by:

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of developing a calf muscle strain:

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Most calf muscle strains can be diagnosed with a physical exam. Images may be needed of the area if severe damage is suspected. Images may be taken with MRI scan or ultrasound.
Muscle strains are graded according to their severity:

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:

Supportive Care

Your muscle will need time to heal. RICE is often the main part of treatment:
  • Rest—Activities will need to be restricted at first. Normal activities will be reintroduced gradually.
  • Ice—Ice therapy may help relieve swelling. Heat or cold may be advised throughout recovery if they provide benefits.
  • Compression—Used for a limited time, compression bandages can provide gentle pressure to help move fluids out of the area.
  • Elevation—Keeping the area elevated can help fluids drain out or prevent fluids from building up.
Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be advised to reduce pain.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist will assess the muscle. An exercise program will be created to help recovery and to stretch and strengthen the muscle.

Prevention

To reduce the chance of calf muscle strain:

RESOURCES

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

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.familydoctor.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.

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.

Muscle strain (pulled muscle). Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsortho.org/muscle%5Fstrain.html. Accessed February 29, 2016.

Sprains, strains, and tears. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/sprains-strains-and-tears.pdf. Published 2011. Accessed February 29, 2016.

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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