Slight discomfort caused by the onset of muscle fatigue and strain after exercise is a common side effect of rigorous work, but ongoing or severe pain is often indicative of a more serious problem or injury. Medline Plus lists injuries like strains or pulls that cause pain in the forearms and calves among the most common sports injuries. If you experience chronic or severe forearm or calf pain, seek treatment from your doctor to ensure adequate care.
Both the forearm and calf are made up of a series of muscles and tendons that flex and relax to cause movement and rotation. In your forearm, several flexor muscles extend from the elbow to the wrist to enable contraction and rotation during movement. The largest muscles of the calf connect to a tendon called the tendo calcaneus, or Achilles tendon, which attaches to the back of your heel. Many exercises that require repetitive movements engage both the muscles of the forearm and the calf muscles, particularly running and cycling.
Pain in the forearm and calf is either acute or chronic. Acute pain is sharp, stinging pain that occurs without warning. Acute pains are usually associated with an injury that occurs during a strenuous activity. Acute pains may feel like they shoot up from either the heel or the wrist. Acute pains may indicate a variety of injuries that range from the non-serious like a cramp to the very serious like a fracture or tear.
Chronic pains indicate long-term injuries that usually result from overuse of the muscle group. Both forearms and calves are particularly prone to chronic injuries because the areas are made up of several small and relatively inflexible fibers called fascia; fascia act as boundaries between the various small muscles of the arm and leg. When swelling as a result of inflammation after exercise occurs, the fascia do not expand as flexibly as the muscle. Chronic pain in the forearm and calf is associated with a feeling of pressure, swelling, tenderness, weakness, and periods of sharp or severe pain in the arm or leg.
Every muscle in your body is susceptible to a muscle pull or tear. A muscle pull or tear occurs when the muscles are pulled beyond their abilities; calf muscles can be pulled during running or jumping, and forearm muscle pulls are common during extensions in a sport like tennis or volleyball. An Achilles rupture may also cause calf pain. If the Achilles tendon tears from the heel, it may cause incapacitating sharp, shooting pains that feel like a gunshot wound through the foot and calf. Pain in the front of the calf may be caused by shin splints, a tear the occurs between the bones of your shin and the connecting tendons that attach them to your foot arch.
Compartment syndrome is a chronic injury that most commonly occurs in the calf or forearm. When muscle inflammation due to exercise or injury occurs in the muscles of the arm or leg, the inflexible fascia cannot accommodate the swelling. The resulting pressure causes severe pain that is not affected by traditional treatments like pain medication. Chronic forearm pain may also be the result of tennis elbow. Inflammation in the forearm and wrist muscles form overuse results in chronic pain in either the inside or outside of the elbow. Tennis players and golfers are common sufferers of tennis elbow.
Though injuries due to falling are difficult to prevent, reduce your risk of calf and forearm pain through proper preparation, training and use of equipment. Practice static stretches before and after your workout to loosen your muscles in preparation for work. Provide your muscles with ample fuel by staying hydrated and eating a small meal rich in carbohydrates and protein before your exercise. Avoid calf strains and injuries by running in shoes with adequate arch support; if you have flat feet, you may need orthopaedic inserts for support. Always begin your workout with a warm-up routine that prepares your muscles. If you are beginning a sport like golf or tennis, enlist the help of a trainer to demonstrate proper form to avoid over-extensions that lead to forearm injuries.
For minor or temporary forearm and calf muscle pain, Medline Plus recommends a regimen of rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication. After the initial swelling decreases, switch to indirect heat to relieve any residual discomfort. More serious or persistent forearm or calf pain should be treated by a doctor. For a severe muscle tear like an Achilles rupture, your doctor may recommended surgery to reattach the muscle and remove damaged tissue. Compartment syndrome is also treated with surgery to reduce the swelling and relieve the pressure on the fascia. For relief of chronic pain like tennis elbow, your doctor may treat you with a cortisone shot.