Relieve Sore Calves
Depending on the cause of muscle soreness, it is possible to reduce the risk of sore calves.

Rest, elevation and compression are the first steps in treating sore calves. Heating pads can aid in the relaxation of calf muscles. Lower leg muscle stretching can also aid in the reduction of tight calves.

If the soreness and pain are accompanied by symptoms such as warmth, redness, fever, or shortness of breath, you should see a doctor right away to rule out any underlying complications.

Numerous treatments are available to help you manage the pain and soreness in your calves. Depending on its severity, different treatments or a combination of treatments may be recommended.

Although some may need emergency care, the majority of cases can be managed at home.

10 ways to relieve sore calves

  1. R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation)
    • To reduce swelling, elevate your calf and avoid applying excessive pressure to it. Place an ice pack on the painful area for 20 minutes. You may repeat this throughout the day.
    • For immediate relief, try the RICE method within the first 48 to 72 hours. After doing this, avoid overusing your muscles to prevent further injury.
    • A warm bath in a tub filled with Epsom salt may also aid in muscle relaxation.
  2. Heat therapy
    • Once some of the symptoms and swelling have subsided, heat therapy can be beneficial 
    • Regularly used for strain and sprain because it helps relax and loosen up sore and tight muscles. 
    • Aids in the healing of damaged tissue by increasing blood flow to the affected muscle, providing it with more oxygen and nutrients, both of which are necessary for muscle recovery.
    • A heating pad can be used to apply heat to your calf muscle. You can do it several times a day. 
    • Heating pads are believed to help flush some of the by-products or inflammation associated with muscle soreness out of the muscles by increasing blood flow.
  3. Get a massage
    • Use a few drops of your preferred massage oil to further relax your tight calf muscle. Although it may seem obvious, massages do aid in the relief of sore muscles.
    • According to studies, a post-workout massage significantly reduces pain by lowering the body's production of cytokines, which are inflammatory substances. Massage stimulates the mitochondria in cells at the same time, promoting cell function and repair.
    • The fact that massage feels good and is a way to set aside time to relax your body is what makes it so beneficial.
  4. Use a foam roller
    • Using foam rollers to relieve soreness in your calf muscles promotes muscle repair. Foam rolling has been linked to improved tissue healing and a reduction in muscle swelling.
    • Immediately after exercise and for the following 24 hours, 20 minutes of foam rolling on a high-density foam roller may reduce muscle soreness and affect one's dynamic movements.
  5. Stretching and strength exercises
    • Soreness in your calf muscles can be reduced through stretching. Stretching the calves can help lengthen the muscle fiber and reduce pain. 
    • It's crucial to stretch your calf muscles steadily and slowly. Keep in mind, to begin with, light stretching and avoid overdoing it.  
    • Although stretching may feel uncomfortable, it shouldn't hurt. You can include strengthening exercises in your routine to avoid such injuries in the first place.
    • You can follow exercise instructions if you're unsure about stretching exercises.
  6. Try compression gear
    • Studies have reported that compression gear can reduce muscle soreness and speed up muscle recovery by constricting your muscles and preventing fluid buildup post-workout while increasing blood flow. This also helped remove creatine kinase, an enzyme in your muscles that can cause pain.
  7. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications
    • OTC pain relievers can temporarily alleviate any discomfort. OTC medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen may help relieve pain in sore calves.
    • However, it is best to take any medication only after discussing it with your doctor.
  8. Antioxidants and protein
    • Protein was found to help with muscle function recovery in the 24 hours following an injury, and adding antioxidants to meals improved recovery even more.
    • In the hours following an injury, load up on protein (chicken or fish) and antioxidant-rich foods (pomegranates and kale) and keep an eye on your recovery.
    • Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds are abundant in tart cherry juice. According to research, people who include tart cherry juice in their recovery process report less muscle pain. Cherry's anti-inflammatory properties may be beneficial in reducing muscle soreness.
  9. Sleep
    • The direct scientific link between sleep and post-exercise recovery entails a plethora of physiological functions that are not always easy to define and separate. 
    • Inflammation can be exacerbated by a lack of sleep. Inflammation may contribute to muscle soreness, which can be alleviated by adequate rest.
    • The most effective way to improve recovery is through sleep. As your body works hard to recover while you sleep, it is essential to prioritize getting enough sleep.
  10. Physiotherapy
    • If you frequently experience chronic pain, you may benefit from physiotherapy. A physiotherapist can assess your condition and recommend a treatment plan. 
    • This plan may include muscle-flexibility-promoting exercises, stretching, or massage treatments. The treatment also reduces pain, swelling, and other symptoms.
    • A physiotherapist will assist you in determining the underlying cause of the problem. Physiotherapy also reduces the likelihood of these symptoms recurring.

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What causes sore calves?

Causes of calf pain can be extremely diverse and include direct trauma, muscle overuse, muscle and tendon ruptures, and blood clots. Overuse can cause calf muscles to tighten up. Strenuous exercises, such as running or playing sports, can strain your calf muscles. Sometimes, even people who don't engage in a lot of physical activity are at risk of tight calves.

Common causes of calf tightness and pain include:

Calf tightness occurs for two reasons:

  1. Overload
    • A sudden increase in workload on calves due to hikes or sports
    • Inadequate recovery between activities
    • Different biomechanical factors and walking patterns
  2. Inadequate strength
    • Any weakness may manifest as a tightening sensation
    • A period of inactivity or problems such as previous injuries can lead to weakness

Sore calf muscles or pulled muscles caused by new activity will go away in a few days. If left untreated, calf tightness and discomfort from fatigue or neuromuscular soreness continue to affect your daily life.

How can I prevent sore calves in the first place?

In most cases, depending on the cause of muscle soreness, it is possible to reduce the risk of sore calves.

Common preventive measures include:

  • Slow and steady
    • Increase the intensity of any activity or sport gradually, rather than abruptly. Try not to push yourself too hard, too fast, or too soon.
  • Warm-up
    • Warm up before beginning any sport or strenuous physical activity.
  • Be consistent
    • Maintain a regular strength and flexibility/stretching exercise program. This will assist you in maintaining good physical conditioning even during the off-season of a sport. 
    • Physical therapists are experts at creating personal exercise programs that increase strength, improve movement, and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Understand what you wear
    • Wear shoes that offer more support to your joints and muscles. Flatter shoes can cause tightness in your calf and Achilles.
    • Wearing compression sleeves can help increase blood circulation to your muscles and relieve pain while participating in any activity.
  • Others
    • Calf muscle tightness can be caused by inactivity. Make sure to get some physical activity.
    • Drink plenty of water and eat a nutritious diet before and after your workouts.

Soft tissue massage, stretching, and foam roller may relieve symptoms and feel good in some cases, but they will not necessarily get rid of problematic calf muscles.

If you experience difficulty managing ongoing calf pain, it is best to consult with your physiotherapist to develop an appropriate strengthening program. Please see your doctor if you have any additional symptoms, such as extreme pain, swelling, worsening pain, or weeping discharge.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/4/2022
References
Image Source: iStock image

Why Does My Calf Muscle Hurt? https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/ss/slideshow-why-does-my-calf-muscle-hurt

Sore Muscles from Exercise: https://familydoctor.org/sore-muscles/

Ask the Trainer: how to prevent sore calves: https://coloncancercoalition.org/2010/11/02/ask-the-trainer-how-to-prevent-sore-calves/

Calf Muscle Pain: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/22274-calf-muscle-pain#: