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The calf consists of two muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The two muscles merge and connect to the Achilles tendon which, when the muscles contract, pulls the heel upwards to allow forward movement. As with all muscles the calf can become damaged when overstretched causing tears in the muscle fibres.
The severity of a calf muscle strain can range from a grade I strain where this little damage, it may initially feel like cramp but begins to hurt after finishing exercise. Grade II strains are more severe and the pain will be immediate, the muscle will be painful when stretched or contracted. A complete rupture of the muscle is a grade III tear. This will be much more painful and walking will be impossible without pain. There may also be a lump of muscle above the tear. Grade II and III tears will show bruising due to bleeding following the pulled calf muscle.
Following the injury it is important to rest the muscle. Even if there is minimal pain it doesn’t take much more exertion for a calf strain to become more severe, it is much more sensible to rest and recover fully. Ice and compression can be used to help with pain relief and to reduce the swelling around the damaged muscle tissue. After an initial period of rest resistive training can start to begin again, at this stage calf supports can provide support to the muscle and confidence to the user. Less severe strains should heal within three to six weeks but a complete rupture may take months and require surgery for a complete rehabilitation.