A calf muscle injury is common in sports and are sometimes known as a ‘pulled calf’.
The term ‘pulled muscle’ comes from the description of how the injury takes place.
Usually the calf muscle is forcibly stretched beyond its limits and the muscle tissue
Calf strains are characterised by the onset of sudden, sharp pain, and the injured
muscles may also be stiff and tender to the touch. The pain is a result of muscle
fibres in the leg tearing, with the amount of fibres being torn directly related to the
severity of the injury. Many of us will have experienced some degree of calf strain at
some point in our lives, and most of us would easily be able to identify when we have
strained our calves. But there are different levels of calf strains, some more serious
than others, so let’s look at the three different types of calf strains, and the
implications of each of them. The degree of strain can be classified into one, two or
Grade one is the least serious of the three levels of calf strains. People who
experience a grade one strain will feel some pain and sensitivity, and the muscle will
probably feel a bit tight. That’s about as bad as it gets, although you may not
properly experience these symptoms until the following day. We define a calf strain
as a grade one if fewer than 25% of the muscle fibres have been affected, so most
people will be able to continue their activity after a few minutes.
Grade one calf strains will usually heal completely within 2-4 weeks, but there are a
few things you can do to help speed up the process. Start by applying ice-packs to
the muscle for 15 to 20 minutes. Resting and keeping the leg elevated are important
at this stage of recovery. After about 2 days you begin to feel more
comfortable moving the muscle, we will be able to provide you with the appropriate exercises.
A grade two calf muscle injury covers quite a broad range of damage, as any calf strain that
tears between 25% and 90% of the muscle fibres will be classified as a grade two.
The difference between a grade one sprain and a grade two sprain is quite
noticeable. People with grade two sprains will feel much more pain, and can but
should not continue with the activity. They will initially feel a sharper pain, and will
experience more bruising, swelling, and stiffness in the coming days and weeks.
To speed up recovery, the first week should be spent resting from the physical
activity. Apply an ice pack for fifteen minutes every couple of hours. After a few days
you can begin light exercises as advised by a physiotherapist and move onto more
challenging exercises after two weeks. It usually takes 4-8 weeks to completely
A grade 3 calf strain is reserved for those in which over 90% of the muscle fibres
have torn, or the muscle has completely ruptured. Someone who experiences a grade three
calf strain will experience immediate and excruciating pain. They will be
unable to continue the activity, and may not be able to move their calf muscle at all.
The typical recovery time for a grade three strain is 3-4 months.