Running is great exercise and is a necessary part of training for a multitude of sports, but increasing mileage too quickly, or warming up or cooling down insufficiently, can lead to a strain of the three muscles of the calf in the back of your lower legs. Although you might try to continue running if your calf pain is mild, you’ll likely change your stride slightly without realizing it, and this can make the strain worse.
Athletes most prone to a calf strain are those who do a lot of running or who increase their mileage very quickly, such as distance runners, basketball players and soccer players. Running while you’re dehydrated also can put you at increased risk of a calf strain, so it’s important to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. Finally, having low foot arches can make boost your chances of straining your calf muscles, so make sure you have appropriate footwear for running or training.
Rest and the use of ice packs and anti-inflammatory medication may be enough to help your calf heal; massaging it may also quicken recovery. But if the strain is more serious and pain doesn’t fade, you may have a more serious injury, and you should consult your doctor or sports medicine specialist so he or she can evaluate your symptoms and help put you on the road to recovery.
To prevent a calf strain, stay hydrated during exercise. Wear appropriate footwear, and warm up and cool down fully whenever you run or train. Additionally, strengthening and stretching certain muscles can protect against muscle strains, because the stretchier a muscle is, the less likely you are to pull it.