Runners, walkers and those practicing a variety of sports involving jumping or climbing (for example, basketball) can come across calf pain. A mere calf strain can go away in a day or so, but more severe injuries could take longer to heal. Moreover, there are calf pains and strains that affect you for longer and could lead to more enforced rest.
Can you avoid calf strains and relieve calf pain with compression socks? Through their gentle compression and stimulation of blood flow in the lower leg area, compression socks help reduce swelling, but also support quicker recovery from calf strains.
Read on to find out:
- Why compression socks can help with calf pain;
- The most common causes of calf pain;
- The benefits of compression socks for your calves;
- How to use compression garments against strains to the calf muscles;
- How to wear compression socks to benefit your calf muscles.
Will Compression Socks Help with Calf Pain?
Thanks to the support and gentle pressure on your calf muscles, compression socks can be of great help if you suffer from calf pain from either too much exercise or from a mild strain. Compression socks are known to have a very positive impact against edema (swelling), which is sometimes the root cause of calf pain.
Moreover, compression calf sleeves or socks can help protect this part of the leg and provide more stability during long hours spent hiking or running. Finally, through supporting good blood circulation in the lower legs, compression socks help prevent swelling, blood clots created by the pooling of the blood around the lower limbs, and other more serious conditions. All these are known to be not just at the root of that “heavy legs” feeling, but also cause for pain and more stress.
Common Causes of Calf Pain
To better understand the role of compression socks in preventing and alleviating pain in your calf muscles, let’s quickly review the common causes of calf pain. These can include the following:
- Straining during sports – this can mean a slight injury from running or jumping. It can lead to some swelling or bruising and feeling pain in the calf muscles;
- Medial gastrocnemius strain – pain that comes from a strain to the gastrocnemius muscle (located at the back of the lower leg but different from the calf muscle);
- Rupture of the plantaris muscle – this muscle can rupture and cause pain throughout the lower leg;
- Baker’s cyst – a condition whereby excess fluid accumulates at the back of your leg, causing pain and possibly running the risk of rupturing and sending this fluid in the calf region.
In addition to these injuries, however, you may be feeling calf pain simply as a form of delayed onset muscle soreness after working out. This means you need to help your calf muscles recover (e.g. after a fast running workout or a weights session in the gym). Similarly, you may feel calf pain during endurance activities like long hikes, walks and runs – this is simply the result of effort for the muscles and absolutely normal. But, in all these cases, there are ways in which compression socks can really help either alleviate the pain or eliminate it altogether.
The Benefits of Compression Socks for Calf Pain and Strains
When suffering from calf pain and general discomfort and swelling in your lower leg, using compression socks or calf sleeves can make a huge difference. Often, runners will resort to wearing compression socks to help speed up recovery, and you can see calf sleeves becoming ever more popular for long-distance running and hiking events to help prevent the onset of soreness or swelling. Similarly, there is a huge benefit from improving blood flow in the calf muscles when you are looking to reduce the symptoms of some of the conditions mentioned above.
Here are some key benefits you can expect from compression socks for your calves.
Improve Circulation and Blood Flow
Blood circulation is key to reducing feelings of pain and discomfort in the lower leg muscles. The action of compression socks exerts pressure onto the lower legs, stimulating better blood flow. This, in turn, prevents the creation of blood clots and reduces the risk of conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Through better blood flow, your muscles are also getting oxygen quicker, which helps with their recovery from effort / exercise.
Reduce Edema and Swelling
Those who are on their feet a lot, or having to sit without moving for long stretches of time (e.g. on a long plane ride) will have already noticed how badly the lower legs and ankles can swell up. Swelling can, in turn, lead to pain and discomfort that can escalate significantly. The continuous blood circulation and gentle pressure exerted by compression socks reduces the risk of swelling and also helps alleviate it once it’s set in.
Prevent Muscle Cramps
Compression socks and sleeves help stabilize the leg muscles when you are running or walking. This reduces the pounding from force exerted on your body by the tougher and repetitive landing. It therefore can help reduce the trauma on your muscles and reduce the likelihood of developing muscle cramps during your day out.
Speed Calf Muscle Recovery
Professional athletes and amateur runners alike resort to compression wear to speed up recovery for their muscles. Through the increased blood flow boosted by compression socks, your muscles get more oxygen more quickly, which helps them recover after a tough session.
How to Wear Compression Socks for Calf Pain
Wearing compression socks to reduce or prevent pain in the calf muscles is really easy. Choosing garments that fit you well, are made from good-quality materials, and provide graduated compression, you can then enjoy them for as long as you feel comfortable and feel the benefits, too.
How Long to Wear Calf Compression Socks
We recommend that, if this your first time wearing compression socks, you start by trying them on for 1-2 hours on the first wear. Then, you can gradually increase the length of time you wear your socks and end up wearing them the whole day, if you go for a long hike or if you’re at work from morning til evening.
Should You Wear Calf Compression Socks While You Sleep?
There is no counterindication to wearing calf compression socks when you sleep. We would not recommend doing this with your first pair right away, however you can wear compression socks for 24 hours a day if you wish to. The only thing to keep in mind is that you should care for your socks and wash them regularly.
Compression for Calf Strain Relief and Prevention
When it comes to a more accidental damage to your calf muscles, either from exercise or resulting from the conditions we’ve listed above, you may find yourself dealing with a calf strain. You can also benefit from the help of compression socks to recover from this.
What is Calf Strain?
A calf strain takes place when some of the muscles at the back of your leg tear (these calf muscles include the gastrocnemius and plantaris muscles we referred to above, too). You’ll feel a short, sharp pain as you muscle fibers are stretched or torn, partially or completely in more severe cases. When calf strains settle in, you’ll most likely feel that you cannot continue with your current sport or activity.
Wearing Compression Socks for Calf Strain Recovery
So, what can you do to help your calf muscles recover from a strain? Firstly, it’s important to know that your body will go through three phases once a strain has occurred:
- Inflammatory – when the body cleanses the injury site of the injured cells;
- Regeneration – when new muscle cells are created;
- Remodeling – when new muscle cells grow stronger.
In the immediate inflammatory phase, you will need to rest or reduce your activity. Then, from the inflammatory phase throughout the following ones, wearing compression socks will help stimulate the blood flow to your calf muscles. This brings in much needed oxygen and boosts the activity of regeneration and remodeling. The more oxygen you have in your muscles, the better they heal.
Preventing Calf Strain with Compression
Many runners use calf sleeves or compression socks to help prevent re-injury or a first-time calf strain. This is because compression sleeves or socks reduce the muscle oscillation, or vibrations into the muscle from landing during running or hiking/walking, thereby protecting your muscles more.
Having less vibration in the calf muscles can help reduce fatigue, as well as micro-injuries and soreness after exercise.
How to Choose the Right Calf Pain Compression Socks
To choose the best compression socks for calf strain or calf pain, you need to ensure that you do a bit of research and understand how compression socks work in the first place. Then, here’s what we recommend paying attention to:
Size– ensure that your compression socks are tight enough to exert a decent amount of pressure on your muscles, otherwise you will not feel the benefit. Contrary to popular opinion, compression socks don’t hurt when you wear the right size. Find out more about getting this right here.
Material– this is another important variable when choosing your compression socks. As a runner or hiker, you’ll probably want to reach for merino wool or moisture-wick Nylon socks that keep your feet dry and also help regulate foot temperature. But, for everyday wear, cotton socks will be very good for purpose.
Compression level– it is important to start off with a lighter compression level and slowly get used to that before going higher. If you have a medical condition, your doctor will advise different compression levels that are appropriate for you.
Compression Sleeves or Socks for Calf Pain and Strains
Whether you choose a calf sleeve covering your lower leg from ankle to knee, or full compression socks that include ankle and foot cover, the benefits of compression on your lower limbs are multiple. Depending on the sport, activity, or condition that applies to you, you can prevent or recover from calf pain and calf strain, as well as alleviate pains in the calf muscles significantly.