If your calves hurt again and again, it can have very different causes. The pain is perceived differently from person to person - one person experiences calf pain as pulling, another experiences it as a nagging pain, while the next person would describe it as cramps. These complaints are always annoying in every respect and sometimes they can seriously disrupt your night's sleep.
In most cases, the pain is caused by the calf muscles , which are located on the back of the lower leg and are active with every step. The question of the cause can only be answered in connection with the question of when the pain occurs: when walking, at rest or at night? Immediately after exercise or delayed?
Nutrient deficiency as a cause
In fact, the causes of calf pain are often caused by a lack of nutrients . If there is a deficiency of magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium, problems arise in the interaction between the nerves and the muscles - the result: cramps .
It can be helpful to supplement these minerals or to have your doctor use a blood test to determine what exactly is lacking. This type of pain also occurs regularly at night.
Under or overload
Overexertion of the calves can lead to muscle soreness or tension. But underloading could also be a cause of the pain. If you then move, you will get muscle pain or just the classic sore muscles. The calf muscles become acidic due to the strain, which causes the pain.
Muscle soreness occurs 1 to 2 days after exercise. Sometimes this can lead to real muscle hardening , which often only calms down with rest and wraps, warm-hot alternating showers or appropriate ointments. As a preventive measure , a warm-up phase should always take place before exercising.
Nighttime leg cramps, pain and tingling
These symptoms of calf pain could be a sign of restless legs syndrome, which is a neurological disease. The calves are particularly affected at night.
If the calf pain comes from exercise, a muscle strain could be to blame. This can happen, for example, if you haven't warmed up long enough . A muscle strain is typical for calf pain after exercise. If you have symptoms caused by a strain, cooling usually provides relief.
Calf pain after a torn muscle fiber
A torn muscle fiber is a serious injury that takes some time to heal. The muscle fibers develop small tears or, in the worst case, tear completely. If intense calf pain occurs very suddenly, the well-known PECH rule applies: take a break from sport, cool with ice, compress and elevate the affected leg.
When to see a doctor?
Only in rare cases is a serious illness such as diabetes mellitus or a thyroid or kidney disease behind the calf pain.
A visit to the doctor is recommended if the pain keeps recurring . If they last for a long period of time, if they only occur with a certain movement, if they disturb sleep at night. But also if there are symptoms of paralysis or numbness, if the legs and feet are swollen or if back pain is involved.
Get rid of calf pain permanently with a TENS device
Electric stimulation therapy is a gentle pain therapy with a quick effect and without any medication. Painful tension or cramps in the calves can be effectively relieved with TENS application . Thanks to the correctly fitting calf electrodes , the TENS device stimulates the muscles to improve blood circulation 1 and thus provides targeted relief from calf pain .
So if problems arise due to sports injuries, for example bruises, bruises or strains , a TENS device can help.
The electrodes of the TENS device are attached directly to the back of the calves and then provide relief. The current intensity is adjusted so that it is perceived as a light and pleasant tingling sensation.
TENS and TENS/EMS combination devices are a simple method to regain quality of life when pain or tension of various kinds exists. When used correctly, they have no side effects and can be used anytime, anywhere. They also help stressed muscles to relax after exercise. In addition, when using a TENS device, endorphins are released, which can help reduce stress 2 .
In the following application you will see how to attach the TENS electrodes to your calves to relieve pain and tension. For this application we recommend our calf electrodes and the TENS/EMS combination device STIM-PRO X9 .
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Effective home remedies for calf pain
If your calves hurt, there are some home remedies that can help.
- Magnesium : Magnesium has a relaxing effect and prevents cramps.
- Lavender or arnica oil: Lightly massaging the calves with oil has a relaxing effect. The same applies to a bath with added lavender or arnica.
- Cold or warm calf wraps with quark: some people benefit more from heat, others from cold. Quark is particularly suitable for calf wraps for cramps.
- Ointments: Ointments containing comfrey or horse chestnut can be applied to the painful areas and massaged in. This also relaxes stressed muscles.
Exercises for calf pain that can provide relief
With the right exercises, the calves can relax and the pain can be alleviated .
Calf raises are a very simple but effective exercise to strengthen the calf muscles . Stand upright with your back straight, your feet close together, the balls of your feet slightly turned outwards, your hands on your hips.
Now lift your heels as high as possible and hold there for a moment. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat this exercise several times.
The exercise becomes even more effective if you hold weights in your hands or put on a filled backpack .
Knee exercises in a wide stance with heels raised
This is a variation of the first exercise. Stand with your legs apart and squat until your thighs are approximately parallel to the floor and there is a right angle between your lower leg and thigh. Now lift both heels, stop at the top and lower. Repeat several times. Keep your upper body as upright as possible.
Stretching exercises are important for pain-free calves , especially before and after exercise. Stand upright in a lunge position with both feet pointing forward parallel. Now shift your weight to the front leg and press the heel of the back leg into the ground. Now slowly stretch your back leg. The stretch can be felt in the calf. Stay there for about a minute and switch legs.
Massage with a foam roller or a trigger point massager
Massage with a foam roller can do wonders for sore calves . Adhesive fascia doesn't just cause us problems in the calf area. However, you need a fascia roller for this; alternatively, there are also special trigger point massagers.
You place the foam roller on the floor and place your calves on the roller just above the heel. Now slowly roll your calves towards the backs of your knees. Support yourself with your hands behind your back and keep your bottom off the floor.
You can achieve a similar effect with a trigger point massager specifically for calves, legs and arms. This improves blood circulation in the calf muscles and can relieve joint and muscle pain as the trigger points in the calves are specifically stimulated.
Do you still have questions about calf pain or training your calf muscles? Our trained medical device consultants are available to help you on + 49 7152 - 353 911- 0 from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sources and scientific studies
1 Cramp, Gilsenan, Lowe & Walsh. (2000). The effect of high- and low-frequency transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation on cutaneous blood flow and skin temperature in healthy subjects. Clinical Physiology, 20(2), 150-157. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2281.2000.00240.x
2 Ortu, E., Pietropaoli, D., Mazzei, G., Cattaneo, R., Giannoni, M., & Monaco, A. (2015). TENS effects on salivary stress markers: A pilot study. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, 114–118. https://doi.org/10.1177/0394632015572072