6 reasons why calves hurt and how to treat them

From circulation problems to Achilles tendon rupture, there are many conditions that can cause calf pain. We tell you about the 6 most frequent.

Last update: 28 January, 2022

The reasons why calves hurt are many, since It is a very common symptom that appears at any age.. However, most of the time it is a consequence of muscle fatigue secondary to intense physical activity or standing for a long time.

However, it can also be due to medical situations, such as deep vein thrombosis, the presence of a Baker’s cyst, varicose veins, rupture of the inner calf muscle or Achilles tendon.

1. Blood circulation problems

Blood circulation problems are more common in people who are sedentary, overweight or obese, and elderly. They are a common cause of calf pain. It can also occur in pregnant women at the end of pregnancy and in bedridden people.

It manifests with cramps in the lower limbs, dull pain in the calves, cold feet and swelling that worsens during the day and improves when the feet are at rest and elevated. The pain is not disabling to walk, but can cause heaviness.

Poor circulation is caused by narrowing of the arteries that supply the legs and feet., with the consequent decrease in blood flow. It is associated with diabetes, high fat intake, high blood pressure, and smoking.

Stretching exercises, regular physical activity, reducing the amount of salt in food, not sitting or standing for long periods of time, and wearing elastic compression stockings are recommended.

Being overweight increases the risk of certain conditions that cause calf pain.

2. Deep vein thrombosis

This is a vascular disorder that is caused by the formation of thrombi that cause obstruction in the venous blood flow. It is suspected when the calves hurt and there is swelling, redness, or stiffness of the legs.

It requires immediate medical evaluation, since it can lead to problems due to lack of circulation in the most distant areas of the leg. In addition, the thrombus is capable of migrating to the heart or lungs.

When calves hurt due to deep vein thrombosis you should see a doctor urgently and the use of anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs, such as heparin or aspirin, will be indicated. Also, on some occasions, surgical placement of a stent to ensure the passage of blood.

3. Varicose veins

Varicose veins are caused by dilation of the veins. because there is a valvular defect that prevents the correct venous return. The veins widen due to accumulation of blood and, although they are small, they can cause pain in the calves.

They manifest with long and tortuous dilations of the veins, visible, which are painful and hot on palpation. In addition to a feeling of heaviness and tiredness in the legs.

The treatment of varicose veins consists of measures aimed at reducing the conditions that worsen it, such as obesity, standing for a long time or in the same position and carrying a lot of weight.

What’s more, the use of elastic compression stockings is recommended and a medical evaluation is required to determine the prescription of medications or resolution by laser therapy, sclerotherapy or surgery.

4. Baker’s cyst

Baker’s cyst is a collection of fluid that manifests as a lump on the back of the knee, in the popliteal fossa. However, it can hurt not only in the area, but the calves also hurt due to irradiation of the discomfort.

It also generates a feeling of heaviness and tiredness. To treat it, the use of compression stockings, physiotherapy and the placement of cold compresses are recommended.

5. Infectious cellulitis

The cellulite to which we refer is not the aesthetic alteration of orange peel. In this case it is a type of skin infection which can be caused by contamination of a wound and causes non-specific redness, swelling and warmth in the area. In addition, the calves hurt intensely if the location is the leg.

It occurs because bacteria reach the dermis and subcutaneous cellular tissue. It should be treated with antibiotic therapy, orally or intravenously, depending on the extent of the disorder.

Some very widespread cellulitis cases require hospitalization and treatment with intravenous antibiotics.

6. Achilles tendon rupture

An Achilles tendon rupture may occur as a result of a direct trauma or by exercise of very strong intensity. It manifests itself because the calves hurt, especially when pressing on the tendon, and there is difficulty walking. Sometimes you hear and feel the pop produced by the rupture.

It requires immediate medical evaluation and treatment consists of immobilizing the limb first, and then scheduling surgery.

Why calves hurt should be determined in medical evaluation

Cases of calf pain are diverse and complex. Ideally, if you start with recurrent pain associated with other symptoms (especially lack of skin color or fever), go to the nearest medical service.

Although many leg pains are resolved with rest, there are others that will require drugs and even surgery. A health professional will know how to guide you.

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