Indications of a calf strain

A calf strain involves a tear of the muscle fibers at the rear part of the lower leg and ranges from minor to severe.

Injuries to the calf muscle typically occur from abrupt pushing off movement or excessive stretching during jumping activities or rapid directional changes.

What are the indications of a calf strain?

The indications of a calf strain tend to vary significantly but usually involve:

  • Abrupt sharp pain at the rear part of the lower leg
  • Tenderness of the calf muscle particularly at the point of injury
  • Swelling and bruising within hours or days after
    Calf strain

    Abrupt sharp pain at the rear part of the lower leg.

Depending on the severity of the injury, the individual might be able to continue with exercise but he/she will experience some discomfort or tightness during or after activity. Once injuries are quite severe, the individual can recall when the injury occurred or might not be able to walk due to the intense pain.

How a calf strain is graded

Grade 1

  • Minor tear with only 25% of the muscle fibers involved
  • Pang of discomfort or pain in the rear region of the lower leg or a sensation of tightness
  • Able to continue with activity without pain or only mild discomfort in the calf region

Remember that after activity, there is tightness and/or aching sensation in the muscles that can take up to 24 hours to develop

Grade 2

  • Up to 90% of the muscle fibers are torn
  • Sharp pain at the rear part of the lower leg and significant pain while walking after
  • Swelling in the muscles accompanied by mild to moderate bruising but this might take hours or days to become evident
  • During strength testing of the muscle, pain is produced during resisted plantar flexion
  • Tightness and aching sensation might be present in the calf muscle for a week or more before it settles

Grade 3

  • 90-100% of the muscle fibers are torn or “ruptured”
  • The individual can remember when the injury happened and associated with intense abrupt pain at the back part of the lower leg
  • Inability to walk from the pain and weakness
  • Evident swelling and bruising that might take hours to manifest
  • During strength testing, the individual could not contract the calf muscle and a gap in the muscle might be felt in case of a full rupture.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on a calf strain is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage strains by taking a standard first aid course with Kelowna First Aid.