What Are the Causes of Calf Pain?


Calf pain can take many forms, from a dull ache to severe cramping. It can also have many causes, some unrelated to the calf area completely. However, calf pain should never be ignored. Sometimes, it can be a sign of serious problems. If you are experiencing calf pains, see a doctor.

(Image: Barry Austin/Digital Vision/Getty Images)


After exercise or over-exerting the calves or legs, you may experience stiffness, cramping, or a sharp pain in one or both calves. This may be a result of a muscle strain or even tear. See a doctor to make sure the muscle heals properly.

Women walking on treadmill
Women walking on treadmill (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Sleep Disorders

Unexplained calf pain at any time may be a result of a sleep disorder you may not even be aware you have. Especially if you experience calf cramping at night, see a doctor and get a correct diagnosis.

Woman awake in bed
Woman awake in bed (Image: Adam Gault/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Chronic Pain

Calf pain, even if it is not accompanied by the same kind of pain elsewhere, may be a sign of a chronic pain disorder. Unfortunately, chronic pain disorders like fibromyalgia and arthritis tend to be under-diagnosed.

Woman rubbing leg
Woman rubbing leg (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Nerve Disorders

Some calf pain is associated with nerve disorders. Conditions like diabetic neurotherapy, peripheral neurotherapy, and multiple sclerosis (MS) may all cause calf pain.

Woman sitting on couch
Woman sitting on couch (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Circulation Disorders

A very common cause of calf pain is poor circulation. Varicose veins in the calf, while not necessarily dangerous, can ache all day and night. Sudden calf pain can be a sign of arterial insufficiency. This means that the arteries can't supply the calf with enough blood. Sometimes, this means you may have atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which needs close monitoring and sometimes medication. Venous insufficiency is the opposite of arterial insufficiency, and means that blood has trouble leaving the calf. This can include conditions like deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can be very serious if the clot breaks away from the calf and travels elsewhere.

Man sitting on couch
Man sitting on couch (Image: Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

At the Doctor

When you visit the doctor for calf pain, he will probably perform a physical exam first so that he can get a better sense of why you might be experiencing pain. He may then perform more diagnostic tests. Try to explain as best as possible where your pain is and what it feels like. The doctor may ask you how long you've been experiencing the pain, if the pain worsens with activity or movement, and if you've recently hurt or over-exerted yourself.

Woman talking to doctor
Woman talking to doctor (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

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