Upper calf pain is rather common. Luckily, the pain does not necessarily have to slow you down and may not require any treatment. Identifying the problem is important, as is treating it correctly.
Wear and Tear
Often, upper calf pain comes from wear and tear on your body. If you have recently started a new workout program, participated in a new or unusual activity or have purchased a new pair of shoes, chances are the pain you are feeling is just wear and tear on your body or use of muscles that your body is unfamiliar with. Luckily, this pain usually subsides in a couple days. If the pain is caused by new exercise or activity, the more you do it the less the muscle will protest. You’ll experience less pain the more familiar your muscles become with that specific exercise.
Arterial and Venous Insufficiency
Venous insufficiency is another cause of upper calf pain. The venous insufficiency only lasts a few minutes, coming on quickly and going just as fast. Venous insufficiency is often caused by arterial insufficiency, which is the inability of the blood in the arteries to flow properly. Arterial insufficiency happens when blood is unable to flow the way it should through the legs, causing a back-up. While the arterial insufficiency isn’t the cause of the pain, it leads to the venous insufficiency that is associated with the pain, because the ability of the blood to flow properly from the arteries will affect the flow in the venous system.
Intermittent claudication is much the same as arterial insufficiency, but comes and goes even if exercise has not taken place. With intermittent claudication, the blood flow is obstructed even during rest periods. The blood flow restriction may also come while sleeping. While this is usually not a condition that requires treatment, in severe cases it can cause immense pain, ulcers and even gangrene.
Treatment of Upper Calf Pain
Try an over-the-counter pain reliever to relieve the upper calf pain. Ibuprofen or aspirin are usually most helpful, as they are anti-inflammatory medications that will help to reduce the irritation and inflammation that could be contributing to the pain that you are feeling.
Use the RICE methodology to relieve your calf pain. The RICE method is an acronym for Rest, Ice (applied intermittently), Compression and Elevation. Resting the calf will help any muscles to heal, icing intermittently throughout the day will help with swelling, compression with an elastic bandage will help support the muscle and elevation will help to reduce swelling as well.
If your calf pain is caused by claudication, you should stop smoking immediately. Smoking actually causes the veins to constrict, which can contribute to the problem, causing more pain and potentially making it worse.
Start a walking program. This may seem contrary to what you would do to help relieve upper calf pain, but it will help to build the muscles and even encourage normal blood flow through the area. Consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.
When to Call the Doctor
You should see your doctor if you experience the aching during the evening hours, even if you have not been participating in any exercise. A call to the doctor will also be necessary if you have suffered an injury that is still swollen or discolored after 24 hours, if you have pain you cannot explain for three days or more, or if you notice any lumps under the skin.