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Pop in the calf muscle? Here’s what happens and how to treat it

Updated: Feb 21

What happens when your calf muscle pops? We answer this question, as well as why sometimes a pop in the calf muscle has no bruising, why a torn calf muscle can show bruising only a week later, and how to treat a calf muscle that’s popped. Remember, if you need more help with an injury, you're welcome to consult one of our physios online via video call.


Pop in the calf muscle - learn why it happens and how to treat it.

In this article:

  1. What happens when your calf muscle pops?

  2. I felt a pop in my calf muscle but have no bruising

  3. Why is my torn calf muscle only bruising a week later?

  4. How to treat a popped calf muscle

  5. How we can help

We also made a video about this:


What happens when your calf muscle pops?


The pop you feel in your calf muscle when you walk, run, or jump, usually means that you’ve torn a part of the muscle. It’s the sudden tearing of the muscle fibres that can make it feel like a pop, but some people even report hearing a “pop” when this happens.


Make sure that it’s your calf muscle and not your Achilles tendon that’s popped. Calf muscle tears can easily be treated with a carefully graded strength training plan. Achilles tendon tears are much more serious and require specialist (usually needs placing in a boot) and quick (best results if done in 24 hours) treatment to ensure a good recovery.


I felt a pop in my calf muscle but have no bruising


Surely when you’ve torn a calf muscle you would expect to see some bruising? Not always.


You will only see a bruise if:

  • You’ve also torn a significant blood vessel,

  • and the blood is able to move to the skin.

Muscles are surrounded by thick, sinewy fascia sheaths, which can prevent the blood from moving to the skin, in which case it will be absorbed in due course and you’ll never notice a bruise.



Why is my torn calf muscle only bruising a week later?


It can take quite some time for the dead blood to move to the skin. If the portion of muscle that you’ve torn was really deep inside the calf or the fascia sheath is in the way, it can take a week or longer for the blood to move to the skin. The bruise may also be much lighter than what it would be in other circumstances, as a lot of the dead blood would already have been absorbed into the body.


How to treat a popped calf muscle


Exactly like you would treat all muscle strains. First, you have to reduce your activities to a level that doesn’t aggravate your injury. This usually means that you have to stop running or reduce your walking speed or distance.


Then you have to slowly rebuild the strength of the injured muscle fibres through a graded strength training programme. Rebuilding the strength is really important, and a lack of proper rehab is in our experience the most common reason why people end up with recurring calf strains. We’ve discussed what an ideal rehab/exercise programme for a torn calf muscle should look like in a previous article.


How we can help


Need more help with your injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at SIP online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

The Sports Injury Physio team

We're all UK Chartered Physiotherapists with Master’s Degrees related to Sports & Exercise Medicine. But at Sports Injury Physio we don't just value qualifications; all of us also have a wealth of experience working with athletes across a broad variety of sports, ranging from recreationally active people to professional athletes. You can meet the team here.

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About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Master’s Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn and ResearchGate.




Reference:

Bryan Dixon, J. “Gastrocnemius vs. soleus strain: how to differentiate and deal with calf muscle injuries” Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine 2009;2(2):74-77. doi: 10.1007/s12178-009-9045-8