The frustration with calf pain comes from the difficulty in figuring out what’s causing the pain.
It should be simple, you say. Calf pain is probably just a calf muscle injury, right?
So what’s your best way of working out what’s causing your pain?
We detail below be simple approach to confirming your diagnosis. If you are looking for something more accurate, obviously a trip to your local physiotherapist would be your best bet.
If you would rather not spend your cash on a physio visit, the next best option would be a diagnosis via emedicine. Our app, for iOS and Android, is due to launch in October 2019. I can provide a very accurate diagnosis because it’s been developed by experienced sports physiotherapists. Best of all it cost you nothing to confirm your diagnosis!
Finding the cause of your calf pain
To narrow down the possible causes of your calf pain, you need to start with the pattern of pain over the course of a run.
If the pain starts as soon as you start and improves over the course of the run, it’s most likely an inflammatory response from a tendon or even a muscle attachment point on the back of the shin bone.
If the calf pain gets worse as the run goes on, it could be either bone stress, a very fatigued muscle or it may even relate to blood flow or nerve sensation.
Bone stress will typically ache for 1-3 days after every run. It will ache even when you’re not putting pressure on the leg.
Muscle fatigue will usually be sore when the muscle is active or stretched but the pain goes away if you’re not loading or stretching the muscle. The pain will then kick back in as soon as the muscle is loaded. You may also notice a feeling of calf muscle tightness after exercise.
Blood flow issues (we’re not talking about DVT or acute vascular issues) will usually get progressively worse as the run continues but ease soon after you stop running. It will gradually build again as you return to running.
Blood flow issues can also have symptoms that extend down into the foot whereas muscle problems won’t refer pain outside of the muscle.
Nerve problems, such as sciatica, can also referred pain to the calf. But typically as the condition worsens, the pain will extend down into the foot and/or up further into the hamstring. This pattern is fairly typical of nerve problems.