Calf Pain

Usual Suspects:

  1. The muscles of the calf
  2. The muscles of the back of the thigh and buttock

The Imbue Pain Relief Patch temporarily relieves minor aches and pains of muscles and joints. In the diagrams below, the X’s show the locations of common trigger points (localized muscle strain), and the colored shading shows the pain pattern each trigger point produces. This pain is often several inches (or more) away from the trigger point at which it originates. When a trigger point is to blame for your pain, applying the Imbue Pain Relief Patch at the site of the trigger point sometimes yields better results than applying it where you typically feel the pain.

Figuring out the cause of your calf pain is usually pretty straightforward. While there are certain non-muscular medical conditions that can cause calf pain (such as blood vessel disorders, including blood clots), if the pain is muscular in origin, it will be coming from the calf muscles themselves or the inner hamstring. In any case, if you have persistent calf pain, especially if it stays in one spot, it’s constant, and it is sometimes red and warm, get a doctor’s advice.

Calf Pain Due to the Muscles of the Calf

There are five main calf muscles involved in pain in this region, and their trigger points are all in the same general area. Take a look at the diagrams below, which show the common locations of trigger points in each muscle (as X’s) and the pain patterns they produce (as red shading). Rather than hunting for points based on the placement of the X’s in these diagrams, just feel the whole calf thoroughly by pressing firmly and moving gradually in about 1 inch increments. Besides using your fingers and thumbs to dig in here, you can lay your calf over the opposite knee and then lean on your leg to push the calf into the knee. Also, you can use a Thera Cane, or place a ball (a lacrosse ball is best) under the calf while resting it on a firm chair or bench. If you find an area that is significantly tender, place the Imbue Pain Relief Patch here.

Gastrocnemius:

The gastrocnemius (and soleus) give the characteristic bulge to the upper portion of the calf. One trigger point (shown on the leg on the left) can produce pain down to the arch of the foot. The others (shown on the leg on the right) produce generalized pain at the upper part of the calf.

Soleus:

Beneath the gastrocnemius is the broader, thicker soleus muscle. Its upper trigger point (shown on the leg on the right) produces pain in the mid calf. The lower one, slightly to the inside of the upper Achilles tendon, produces pain in the lower calf, Achilles, and heel.

Plantaris:

Plantaris connects the lower end of the thigh bone (femur) via a long tendon to the bottom of the heel. (These first three muscles all merge into the Achilles tendon). Its trigger point, usually right on the knee crease, produces pain at the back of the knee and upper calf.

Flexor Digitorum Longus:

This muscle is responsible for curling the four smaller toes and helping them to press against the ground. A trigger point in this muscle mainly causes pain in the sole of the foot, but it may also produce an ache down the inside of the calf.

Tibialis Posterior:

Tibialis posterior runs from the calf to the arch of the foot and helps to flex the foot downward. A trigger point here can cause pain in the Achilles tendon, and also in the calf and the sole of the foot.

Calf Pain Due to the Muscles of the Back of the Thigh and Buttock

Hamstrings:

The hamstrings are two powerful cable-like muscles that run down that back of the thigh. You can feel them as two tendons at the sides of the back of the knee. Trigger points in these muscles tend to cause pain mostly at the back of the thigh, but they have the potential to refer pain also into the upper calf. The outer hamstring, which is the muscle biceps femoris, is shown on the left leg in this diagram. As you can see, its pain pattern extends just slightly below the knee. The inner hamstring, made up of two muscles, semitendinosus and semimembranosus, is shown on the right leg. These trigger points are more likely than those of the outer hamstring to be implicated in calf pain.

To examine this area for trigger points, you will need the help of a friend or the use of a tool such as a Thera Cane or a small ball (a lacrosse ball is best). You can lie face down and have a friend press firmly, following several lines from the crease at the base of the buttock down to almost the knee, starting first near the inside edge of the thigh and then working outward to the outer edge of the back of the thigh. The Thera Cane or ball are also easy to use. With the ball, sit on a hard, flat chair or bench, and place the ball under the crease at the base of the buttock. From there, slowly roll or reposition the ball to cover the whole area described above (see diagram). You may find it helps to lean your forearm on top of your thigh to get more pressure on the ball. If you find an area of significant tenderness, especially if it contributes to your calf pain, do some massage here with the Thera Cane or ball, and apply the Imbue Pain Relief Patch.

Gluteus Minimus:

This is the smallest of the three main buttock muscles, though its trigger points have the largest area of referred pain. There are two sets of trigger points in gluteus minimus. The inner ones, shown as blue X’s, are just below the crest of the pelvis (iliac crest) and they produce pain in the buttock, back of the thigh and upper calf (see blue shading). The outer trigger points, shown as red X’s, are almost at the side of the hip, just above the hip socket and just below the iliac crest. These can produce pain (sometimes with a numb quality) all the way down the thigh and along the entire lower leg, mostly toward the outer side.

Like the hamstrings, this area is best examined by a friend or with the help of a Thera Cane or a ball (tennis or lacrosse). If using a ball, lie on the floor and place the ball in the region where the X’s are on the diagram. Then slowly roll around to press on the whole upper buttock area, making note of any especially painful spots. You can also do this by placing the ball between your buttock and a wall (see diagram). When you find painful spots, do some massage and place the Imbue Pain Relief Patch here.

With Calf Numbness, Also Consider the Piriformis

The piriformis is a muscular band that runs from the edge of the sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of the spine) outward to the top of the thigh bone (the greater trochanter of the femur). Active trigger points in this muscle usually produce pain in the hip, buttock, and back of the thigh (see red shading in the diagram). Also, by squeezing the sciatic nerve, it can cause intense nervy pain all the way down the leg. The two primary trigger point regions of the piriformis are just against the outside edge of the sacrum (see inner X in diagram) and just inside the back of the hip joint (outer X), though it is worth examining the whole area inside the box. (Use a friend, a Thera Cane, or a ball, as described in the gluteus minimus section above.) If you find a painful spot here that produces (or alleviates) the pain in the back of your thigh, do some massage and place the Imbue Pain Relief Patch here.

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