How to recover from a calf muscle strain

Updated April 17, 2017

Running to catch the bus, sprinting over a pothole and around a little old woman and her shopping trolley, and grabbing the door just as it's about to close, you suddenly feel a sharp pain in your calf and a popping sensation; that is a muscle strain. Strains, also known as pulled muscles, are common injuries. Calf muscle strain results from excessive pressure exerted on the calf, probably the pothole sprint, which cause extensive muscle tearing. Attend to the injury immediately and you will reduce the severity of the injury.

Elevate both legs immediately, allowing the muscle to rest. Remove footwear and keep legs elevated until pain and swelling subside.

Apply ice directly over the calf as you rest for approximately 20 minutes and remove for 60 minutes. Then place ice on the calf, alternating the off-and-on treatment, for 24 hours.

Assess your injury three to five days after resting the muscle. Is there pain upon standing? Is there any pain or swelling? If there is pain or swelling upon standing, contact your physician. If there is no pain or swelling, begin stretching the calf, slowly, until a pulling sensation is felt; hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

Continue stretching the calf muscle during the fourth and fifth days of injury for 30 to 60 seconds, three times per day, as well as after rising from sleep and before exercise. Massage the muscle tissue on and around the injury to reduce healing time. Alternate heat and ice during the following week to reduce residual inflammation and increase circulation in the strained area.


Alternating heat and ice after the initial injury will reduce oedema in the calf and encourage movement of blood and lymph, decreasing healing time. Gentle stretching reduces muscle tissue scarring and maintains flexibility during healing.


Avoid hot or cold muscle rubs that can disguise pain and cause overuse of the strained muscle. Do not apply heat or hot showers or water to the injury as it can increase swelling and bruising of muscle tissue. Avoid placing ice directly on the skin; cover ice with a towel before placing on the injury to avoid hypothermia.

Things You'll Need

  • Ice
  • Heating pad
  • Chair and ottoman
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About the Author

Suann Schuster has been working as a freelance writer since 2004. She served as an item writer for McGraw-Hill Education and a curriculum author. Schuster now provides content for Science and Massage Therapy texts for McGraw-Hill, as well as for test banks. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Sedona.