Lower Leg Pain

At SFMMG we have Orthopedic doctors and pain management physicians but we also have a Podiatrist who is specifically trained for all problems related to structures below the knee. The calf is located behind the lower leg just beneath the knee. The major structures that make up the calf are muscles. Most people who develop calf pain have some type of injury to the muscles. However, in people who smoke and in diabetics, blood vessels problems can cause calf pain. In rare cases, structures behind the knee may also be responsible for calf pain.

Lower Leg or Calf Pain Symptoms

Some common disorders of lower leg pain include the following:

Calf Muscle Strain usually occurs from intense sporting activity and the onset is rapid. One may notice a sudden onset of pain and this may also be associated with swelling and bruising of the calf. When the disorder is severe, one may not be able to walk or participate in sporting activities.
Plantaris Muscle Rupture is not a common cause of calf pain. This small thin muscle is often ruptured in athletes who jog or participate in lifting or leaping events. When the muscle ruptures, one usually feels a loud pop and sudden onset of pain. However, the Plantaris muscle is not functionally important and no surgical therapy is required.

Achilles Tendonitis/Rupture is a rather common occurrence in young individuals who play sports. The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the back of the heels and is a very strong tendon. Sometimes small tears may occur in the Achilles tendon and may cause tendonitis. However, the Achilles tendon can also rupture. When this occurs there is a loud popping sound followed by intense swelling around the calf. With a full-blown rupture one cannot walk on the foot.

Baker's Cyst is a small swelling that occurs behind the knee. The cyst contains fluid and is most common in people who have osteoarthritis. Sometimes when the cyst gets large, it may cause pain at the back of the leg. Occasionally baker’s cyst may rupture and the fluid will collect just behind the calf muscles.

Blood clots are a common cause of calf pain in hospitalized patients. Some women who take oral contraceptive may also develop blood clots in the calf. These blood clots can cause irritation and pain. Anytime a blood clot occurs it must be urgently treated as they can break off and block off blood vessels in the lung. Blood clots can also occur in the calf after hip and knee surgery.

Cramps are one of the most common causes of calf pain. Cramps may occur during sports or even at night. Calf pain is relieved by proper stretching and heat application. Athletes need to drink ample fluids containing electrolytes to prevent cramps.
Treatment of calf pain depends on cause and the severity of the disorder. Before a treatment can be recommended one should know the diagnosis. Anyone who is unsure of the diagnosis should seek help from a health care professional.

Common treatments for calf pain include:

- Resting should be a priority if you have calf pain from straining or overuse of the leg
- Elevation may help if there is calf swelling
- Apply ice to decrease the swelling
- Use crutches
- Stretching of the muscles and tendons is highly recommended prior to any exercise
- NSAIDS non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs and
- Physical therapy is crucial for all people who have any type of chronic muscle pain.
- Physical therapy exercise can help regain strength, flexibility and improve endurance.


The diagnosis of calf pain depends on the history and physical exam. Some people may require x-rays, MRI or CT scan to get a detailed look at the anatomy. If a blood clot is suspected one may need to undergo an ultrasound.
San Francisco Lower Leg or Calf Pain Multi-Disciplinary Approach

The San Francisco Multi-Specialty Medical Group (SFMMG) provides Full Spectrum care for your Lower Leg. Our physicians and staff members represent a number of specialties including:
Orthopedic Medicine
Physical Therapy
Being able to offer appropriate, comprehensive and timely diagnosis and treatment in one location. Please call to schedule an appointment with our physicians at one of our locations.