Calf pain can often occur during physical activities like running or exercise classes. 
 
Experiencing calf pain during exercise can make us anxious that we have torn a muscle. But, if the pain you experience during exercise quickly recovers or is only felt during exercise, it may not be a muscle tear. This is more likely to be due to muscle overload, also known as biomechanical overload syndrome. 

Calf Muscle Tear 

A calf muscle tear involves a structural change in the muscle. This pain feels intense and continuous when the muscle contracts or stretches until it has healed. Calf tear pain symptoms are experienced not only during exercise but after exercise when the muscle is required to work. 
 
To begin with, A torn calf muscle needs rest from intense or hard exercises while healing takes place and scar tissue forms. Once the integrity of the calf has restored to a level where there is no discomfort when working, a gradual return to exercise and strengthening can begin. 

Biomechanical Overload Syndrome 

Calf muscle overload does not involve any structural change in the muscle. It is thought that the most likely cause of this pain is a reaction to fatigue which happens when you exceed the load capacity of your muscle. 
 
The symptoms of muscle overload are usually a gradual tightening or aching sensation during exercise, leading to the muscle feeling like it may cramp. These symptoms will ease with rest only to return when exercise recommences. 
 
The calf pain caused by biomechanical overload syndrome can be very similar to pain during exercise which is referred from: 
The lumbar spine 
Nerve irritation 
Restricted neural mobility 
Vascular disease 
 
It is important to identify if these are factors that could be contributing to your pain. If you have any concerns about what is causing your pain, you should see your physiotherapist or doctor for an assessment. 
 
Treating calf muscle overload involves reducing your exercise load to a level where there is no pain and strengthening your calf muscle to improve its load capacity. You should also strengthen muscles involved in propulsion (Glutes, Hamstrings and Quadriceps). This ensures that the calf is not having to work any harder to make up for a lack of contribution from these muscles. 

What’s Next? 

If you feel you would like further assistance with any calf pain problem you have, please get in touch with us. At Colchester Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic we are able to complete a thorough assessment of your calf pain and assist in your treatment journey. 

Author 

Craig Fowlie 

Craig is a highly specialized physiotherapist with post graduate qualifications in Acupuncture and Sports and Exercise Medicine. 
 
He has worked with Professional Rugby sides in New Zealand and has assisted Great Britain Table Tennis at the World Team Championships and Olympic Qualifiers in Qatar and Germany. He is a consultant for the Governments Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme and has published and presented research in the Journal of Physiotherapy and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Annual Conference. 
 
Outside of work he enjoys participating socially in triathlon and running. 
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