The back lower portion of the leg is referred to as the calf, which consists of several muscles. Calf pain can result from a number of things, from straining these muscles to circulatory problems.
Calf pain is commonly caused by muscle injury of some sort, though injury or inflammation of the skin, bones or joints in the leg, are also possible candidates. Calf pain can result from overuse, usually the result of physical activities like sports. However, blood clots and other circulatory problems can cause calf pain as well.
Bilateral calf pain is pain or discomfort in both legs' calves. The likelihood of injuring both calves at the same exact time is low, and a more serious, underlying cause may need to be considered.
It is possible that calf pain has little to do with physical wear and tear. The editors of Prevention Magazine Health Books write in their reference guide "Symptoms, Their Causes & Cures" that calf muscles are known to have circulatory problems.
If your calves cramp up and hurt when you engage in physical exercises like running or walking, you may be suffering from arterial insufficiency. Arterial insufficiency, which usually results from atherosclerosis (hardening arteries), means your arteries are struggling to get enough blood and oxygen to your calf muscles during the activity.
The resulting cramping and pain normally disappear within 10 minutes of stopping the physical activity that triggered the discomfort. This is because the amount of blood and oxygen needed by your muscles returns to normal. However, in severe cases, pain can remain well afterward or start even while resting.
While less common than arterial insufficiency, pain and swelling at rest can also point to venous insufficiency. This means your veins aren't pumping blood away from your calf muscles properly. This can lead to thrombophlebitis, which is inflammation and clotting in your veins, and can be a serious health risk if not properly monitored.
According to FreeMD, bilateral calf pain can also result from arthritis, drug use, flu, muscle inflammation and damaged muscles. Restless leg syndrome can also cause resting calf pain.
Some of the best treatments for calf pain rely on common sense. Make sure to rest your calves when they're in pain. Throughout the day, compress the sore areas with a bandage and apply ice to them. Elevation can also help alleviate swelling. Over-the-counter medicine like pain relievers and anti-inflammatories help lessen pain and swelling.
Even though exercise normally triggers dormant calf pain, it can help fight it as well. Walking until the pain starts and then stopping, going a little further each day, may gradually make the symptoms less of an issue.
If all else fails, see your doctor. In some severe cases, surgery or other treatment may be necessary.