Calf muscle pain is usually the result of a mild injury, such as a strain, or leg cramps. But severe or ongoing pain in your calves can be a sign that the muscles in your lower legs aren’t getting enough blood.
Calf muscle pain can be a dull ache or a sharp pain in the back of your leg, behind your shinbone. It can feel a little different for everyone. If you get pain when you’ve been doing something physical like walking or running, the cause is generally muscular. But if the pain comes on suddenly without a clear cause, it could be a problem with your blood vessels.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Anyone can get calf muscle pain. It’s more common in athletes and people who exercise and put excess stress on their calf muscles. People over age 65 are also at a higher risk of lower leg pain due to muscle weakness, certain health conditions or if they’ve been inactive.
Other factors that can make calf muscle pain more likely include:
Calf muscle pain can have a variety of causes, including:
You can usually treat mild calf muscle pain at home using the RICE method:
If you have sore calves from a muscle cramp or feel a painful knot in your calf muscle, it may help to gently stretch your calf.
Your healthcare provider may recommend additional treatments depending on the cause of your calf pain, including:
If your healthcare provider determines your calf muscle pain is the result of claudication, treatments may include:
Most people don’t need surgery for calf muscle pain. In rare cases, people need surgery for torn calf muscles, blood clots or blocked arteries in the calf.
Contact your doctor if you have:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Calf muscle pain is a common complaint and isn’t usually cause for alarm. But sometimes pain in your calf is a sign of a more serious condition, such as problems with the blood vessels in your leg. Seek help if the pain developed without activity or persists even with rest. This could be a sign of a more severe condition that needs to be evaluated.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/09/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.