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Calf Muscle Pain During & After Running

By Emma Cale ; Updated August 14, 2017

Running is a challenging sport, and the body requires adequate rest between runs to recover and adapt. Pain in the calf muscles during and after running may indicate any number of injuries, many of which are related to over-training. Calf muscle pain during and after running may signal a muscle strain, shin splints or compartment syndrome, a condition often confused with shin splints, according to PhysioRoom.com.

Muscle Strain

Pain in the calf muscle during and after running may indicate a calf muscle strain. This injury can occur as a result of a lack of flexibility in the calf muscle, an improper warm-up, or too much mileage and not enough rest between runs. Calf muscle strains typically heal with rest, ice and heat therapy. Take a break from running until the pain in your calf muscle has completely subsided.

Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome typically happens to high-mileage runners. This condition occurs when the muscles, nerves and blood vessels in the calf expand beyond the confines of the compartments in the lower leg due to training adaptation. The main symptom of compartment syndrome includes a cramping type of pain in the calf muscles that comes on about 20 minutes into your run and builds in intensity until you are forced to stop. Although the pain of compartment syndrome subsides with rest, the condition typically requires surgery in order to properly heal.

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Shin Splints

Shin splints represent a common cause of calf muscle pain during and after running. According to Dr. Allan M. Levy, author of the “Sports Injury Handbooks,” shin splints occur when the repeated stress of running on hard surfaces causes the muscle fibers near the shin bone to detach. In extreme cases shin splints can lead to stress fractures in the shin bone. Shin splints typically subside with the use of arch supports, a proper warm-up and switching to a softer running surface such as grass, dirt or sand.

Prevention

In many cases, calf muscle injuries in runners can be prevented by adherence to the rule of progressive overload. Exercise physiologists Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas describe this training principle as “increasing the stress on your body in a very incremental manner so that it can always keep up with the stresses by making the necessary physiological and other adaptations.” Your increases in weekly running mileage, for example, should not exceed 10 percent.

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