Calf pain is more often a muscular complaint and we regularly treat such conditions here in our Physiotherapy clinic. However, calf pain can indicate a far more serious and dangerous health concern as I have been cautiously reminded of by a recent experience.
As Chartered Physiotherapists we are first-contact practitioners where patients can schedule consultations directly with us without having to go through their GP first. We therefore see many patients presenting with what they believe is muscular pain and dysfunction. In a recent case where calf pain was the complaint the more serious symptoms of Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) were presenting.
The medical training of Chartered Physiotherapists equips us with the knowledge and ability to identify these "red flag" symptoms and immediately refer for further medical review and investigation. As medical practitioners it is important we keep the differential diagnosis in mind and refer on if necessary.
A person suffering calf pain could easily assume it to be a simple muscular problem hoping to sort itself out in due course. If the signs and symptoms of DVT are present it is absolutely necessary to receive a professional medical assessment as soon as possible.
Symptoms of a DVT are:
- Swelling in the leg, including swelling in your ankle and foot
- Pain in the leg, usually the calf or thigh
- Warmth over the affected area
- Changes in your skin colour – your skin may turn pale, red or blue
These symptoms are similar to those that can occur with an actual calf injury which unfortunately makes it difficult for the layperson to accurately self-diagnose their condition.
A DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the calf or thigh muscle. They can form usually as a result of the blood not circulating or clotting properly in the leg.
More info on DVT
We are aware when flying on aeroplanes to keep the legs moving and wear compression stockings, these are precautions done to prevent DVT’s. The main complication of a DVT is a pulmonary embolism whereby a blood clot can break free and travel to your lungs causing a blood vessel in your lung to become blocked. Here it can cause serious damage and even be fatal within a few hours.
Medical investigations to diagnose a DVT can include a thorough subjective and physical examination, blood tests and a doppler ultrasound which examines the blood flow through the veins in the leg.
Further investigation if required can involve a venography or a CT/MRI scan.
Calf pain can often be a muscular complaint as a result of a strain for example. The event immediately before the pain started, such as overloading the muscle during a sport activity, may help you understand the probably cause of your calf pain. However do keep in mind the symptoms of DVT and if you are in any doubt do not hesitate to receive a professional, medical assessment by your Chartered Physiotherapist or GP.
Until next time, Take care.