What Does It Mean When You Pop or Pull Your Calf Muscle?

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What does it mean to "pop a calf muscle"—and how can I prevent that from happening to me?

When someone says she popped a calf muscle, it's another way of saying she tore or strained the calf muscle. The expression comes from the popping sound of the tissue tearing, which happens when the muscle fibers are stretched too quickly or too far—say, when you accelerate to chase a ball on a tennis court or change directions abruptly in a soccer game. Warming up before you exercise can help improve flexibility in your muscles. But because our muscles naturally lose some of their elasticity as we age, you're more likely to suffer a strain as you get older, especially if you're overtraining or fatigued.

A pulled calf muscle is quite painful, and there may be bruising and swelling. The injury makes it difficult to walk or bear any weight on that leg. You should definitely get checked out by your doctor because recovery will most likely require physical therapy. There are also potential complications from a torn muscle, such as blood clots. But until you can get to an appointment, resting and icing your calf will help control the pain and inflammation.

Health's medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and a cofounder of TULA Skincare.

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