Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Calf Muscle Injury

Calf Muscle Injury

Condition Basics

What is a calf muscle injury?

Your calf muscle is actually two muscles, the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle. These muscles can be injured if they get overstretched.

Injury to a calf muscle can range from a strain or pull that you can treat at home to a more serious tear that may need a doctor's care.

What causes it?

A calf injury is most often caused during sports where you need to push off with your foot quickly for a sudden burst of speed. Examples include tennis, baseball, soccer, racquetball, and even simple running.

The sudden movement can stress the calf muscle, stretching it beyond its normal limits. This can happen suddenly (acute injury) or over time (overuse injury).

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms depend on how badly you have injured the muscle.

If the injury is only a strain, you may feel a strong pulling in your lower leg. It may be uncomfortable. You may have a twinge of pain.

More serious muscle tears will cause very sharp pain and leave you barely able to walk.

How can you care for yourself when you have a calf muscle injury?

Most calf muscle strains can be treated at home:

  • Rest your injured leg. Take it easy for a day or two.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the sore muscle for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to stop swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice pack and your skin. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down.
  • After 2 or 3 days, you can try alternating cold with heat. To use heat, put a warm water bottle, a heating pad set on low, or a warm cloth on your calf. Do not go to sleep with a heating pad on your skin.
  • Wrap your lower leg with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap) to help decrease swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, since this can cause more swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage.
  • Prop up the leg on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Don't do anything that makes the pain worse. Return to exercise gradually as you feel better.

For more serious injuries, treatment may include physical therapy or surgery.

How can you prevent them?

Most calf muscle injuries occur during sports. If you had a calf muscle problem in the past, it is especially important to try to prevent another injury. When you exercise, try to:

  • Warm up. Before any sport or intense activity, gradually warm up your body by doing 5 to 10 minutes of walking or biking.
  • Cool down and stretch. After intense activity, gradually cool down with about 5 minutes of easy jogging, walking, or biking, and 5 minutes of stretches.
  • Avoid any sport or intense activity that you are not in condition to do.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Achilles Tendon Problems

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details