Calf Strain Advice Emergency Department Information for patients

Emergency Department
Calf Strain Advice
Information for patients
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What is a calf strain?
A calf strain is a common injury and is often caused by
overstretching or putting excess force through the calf muscle
at the back of the lower leg. In this injury the muscle fibres are
stretched and weakened, resulting in bleeding into the muscle.
What are the symptoms?
• Mild ache at rest to moderate pain on using the affected
• Swelling
• Discolouration, redness or bruising
• Difficulty in rising up on your toes or pushing off from your
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How is it treated?
The first treatment is to calm the inflammation and control
the swelling and pain. This can be managed with the “RICE”
Rest: This will help prevent further injury and allow
the healing process to begin. For the first few days,
reduce the amount of walking you do until you can walk
without pain. Avoid forceful and strenuous activity such
as running and jumping until walking is pain free.
Ice: Ice can help reduce swelling and minimize pain.
Make an ice pack by wrapping a small bag of frozen peas
(which you can re-use several times by re-freezing) or by
wrapping some crushed ice cubes in a damp towel. Put
the ice pack on your injured calf for 10 minutes every
2 hours for the first couple of days after the injury. Then
use ice 3 times a day until the swelling goes down.
Compression: You may have been given an elasticated
bandage to support your calf and help reduce the
swelling. If so, you should wear it during the day but
leave it off at night. As the pain and symptoms settle,
gradually reduce the length of time that you are wearing
the bandage. The bandage can be washed and dried
overnight. You should find that you no longer need the
bandage within 2-3 weeks of the injury.
Elevation: Keeping your injured calf raised above the
level of your hips for the first few days after injury helps
to decrease the swelling and pain.
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You can take painkillers such as paracetamol or a paracetamol /
codeine mixture (e.g. co-codamol) as well as anti-inflammatory
medicine such as ibuprofen. Paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets
can be taken together. Please read the dosage instructions on
the packets carefully.
Rehabilitation and recovery
Healing of the muscles normally takes about six weeks, though
everyone recovers from injuries at different rates. This is related
to the severity of the injury and any other medical problems that
might be present.
As healing gets underway, it is important you begin a series of
exercises to gently stretch the calf muscle and regain normal
positioning of the knee and ankle joints. This will help to reduce
the risk of further injury.
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1.Draw your foot up as far as possible, with toes pointing
towards you. Hold for 5 seconds. Then point your foot away
from you as far as possible. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10
2.Sit on a chair and straighten and bend your knee 10 times
3.Facing a wall, put your hands against the
wall at about eye level. Keeping your
injured leg back and the heel on the floor,
lean in towards the wall (bending your
uninjured leg at the knee) until you can
feel a stretch in the back of your injured
calf. Hold for 30 seconds.
Repeat four times. Do this several
times a day.
4.When you can stand on your toes without any pain, while
standing, balance yourself on both feet behind a chair. Rise
up onto your toes and hold for 5 seconds, then lower yourself
back down. Repeat four times. Do this twice a day. Increase
the number of repetitions every second day. Increase the time
you hold the position by 5 seconds every week.
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• If the pain and swelling increase despite rest
and / or
• the calf looks very red and is tender and hot to touch
please see your GP immediately.
If you have persistent problems with pain, swelling or loss of
function, or your injury is not recovering at the rate you expect,
please see your GP.
It will be safe for you to return to normal activity when you have:
• Full strength
• Full range of movement
• Can walk briskly without pain or swelling
Useful telephone numbers
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact:
Minor side, Emergency Department
John Radcliffe Hospital
Tel: (01865) 220224
Or contact your GP.
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If you need an interpreter or need a document in another
language, large print, Braille or audio version, please call
01865 221473 or email [email protected]
Emergency Nurse Practitioner Team
John Radcliffe Hospital
Version 2, April 2011
Review date: April 2014
Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust
Oxford OX3 9DU
OMI 2987