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Calf pain


Calf pain is an unpleasant sensation felt on the back of the lower part of the leg. The calf is made up of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels, and consequently there are many causes of pain in this region. In general, the most common cause of pain is a muscle cramp, an involuntary contraction occurring during physical exertion. Pain can also come from a muscle injury, muscle strain or tearing of a ligament due to elongation. Other causes of pain may be a rupture of the Achilles tendon, poor circulation (venous insufficiency), varicose veins...). In the most severe cases, the formation of a blood clot in veins of the lower limbs, also called venous thrombosis or phlebitis, may be involved.


Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis or phlebitis are typically present on one leg and consist of:
  • spontaneous calf pain, increasing when palpated;
  • pain sometimes caused by raising the forefoot;
  • swelling of the calf;
  • decrease in the mobility of calf in comparison with the other;
  • heating of the calf;
  • redness;
  • fever.


The doctor will conduct a physical examination of the calf to determine the cause of the pain. The context is suggestive of the disease in question (recent trauma, age, history of phlebitis, prolonged immobilization or recent surgery - all risk factors for phlebitis). A dose of D-dimers can rule out the presence of phlebitis if it comes back negative. In case of persistent doubt, a Doppler ultrasound of the lower limbs can give a closer look of the lesion. If confirmed, the search for the main complication of phlebitis, pulmonary embolism, should also be assured.


There are many treatments for pain in the calf. In the case of muscle pain, analgesics and sometimes physical therapy sessions will help. If phlebitis is the problem, compression stockings are used as well as the taking of an anticoagulant therapy over a fixed period, depending on the context.


Walking promotes good blood circulation in the lower limbs, as does elevating the legs from time to time. Compression stockings are also useful. In case of a risk of phlebitis, an anticoagulant therapy may be prescribed for a certain time.

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