How to Treat Calf Trigger Points

Calf pain can stop people from being able to walk, run and do sports. It can become so bad people resort to surgery, however, relieving this pain can sometimes be done by treating calf trigger points. Here’s my story about it.

It was about twenty-three years ago, and I was working as a doctor in New Zealand.

I had just started studying trigger points. Every evening I pored over old manuals and worked out how to find all the triggers in the body. But I had yet to practice my new skills on anyone but myself.

Then one day I saw a very fit healthy young lady who was a keen provincial level hockey player. The problem was, whenever she ran she had this nasty pain in her calf.

She had seen a surgeon who diagnosed a strange and rare condition called compartment syndrome. The key to this condition is that the muscles in your leg are in compartments, almost like sausage skins around your bone.

If you’re unlucky when you exercise, the pressure goes up in one compartment which stops blood supply from getting to the muscle.

So the more you exercise, the worse the pain gets as the muscle is starved of oxygen.

The treatment for this syndrome is to slit open the problem compartment with a long ‘s’ shaped cut which would have gone all the way down her
lower leg and created an ugly scar.

Naturally, she wanted to avoid surgery and came to me for a second opinion. So, when I examined her legs I found exquisitely tender trigger points in her lower leg muscles.

Treat Calf Trigger Point Pain

The Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles - two common places for trigger points
The Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles – two common places for trigger points

I treated her pain by treating her calf trigger points with acupressure, stretches and some acupuncture. To our amazement, her pain went completely and she was able to continue playing hockey without the surgery.

This was my very first treatment, and both myself and my first trigger point patient were blown away with how well it worked.

Over the years I’ve had many other success stories, some not as dramatic, some equally dramatic. But all of them as satisfying for me and the person getting relief from the pain

Knowing how to treat calf trigger points is especially important for runners, cyclists, and sportspeople. Trigger points can be set off by extreme exercise, uncomfortable shoes (or shoes with very high heels,) an injury, or joint pain.

Once these points are active, they need to be treated in order to turn them off, otherwise, they can continue to cause stiffness and muscle pain.

To treat your own calf trigger points, we recommend a self massage technique that uses ischemic pressure.

Here are the main calf muscles which get trigger points:

  • Gastrocnemius
  • Soleus
  • Tibialis Anterior
  • Tibialis Posterior
  • Peroneus
  • Popliteus

NB: You can see all the trigger point pain referral patterns by using our free trigger point charts tool.

Here are the muscles which aren’t in the calf, but which can refer pain into the calf:

  • Gluteus Minimus
  • Piriformis

It’s important to note that while the gluteus minimus has a pain pattern that extends right down the leg, the piriformis muscle can cause calf pain by compressing the sciatic nerve, which then causes pain down the leg.

Let’s look at the two most common calf muscles to get trigger points:

Gastrocnemius Trigger Points

There are four main trigger points in the gastrocnemius muscle. Below is one of the most common ones, which causes pain locally,

Trigger points in this muscle can also cause pain going down into the ankle and sole of the foot.

Soleus Trigger Points

The soleus muscle has two main trigger points. These cause pain in the belly of the muscle and running down into the ankle and heel.

Sometimes pain caused by this trigger point can be mistaken for pain coming from plantar fasciitis.

Soleus Trigger PoInt

For more information on how to find and treat trigger points, here’s where to get a free trigger point treatment starter course >>>

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(6) comments

[…] this Trigger Point Case Study  a young hockey player manages to avoid surgery by correct diagnosis of her calf muscle pain. […]

Carrie January 8, 2011

I have chronic calf pain (more like an annoyance actually) and huge muscle knots in my calves and in my glutes. I think its the muscle knots causing the problem and not something else like an actual tear, etc. (I saw a chiropractor who said the same thing). Is it OK to keep running? I am training for a marathon and while I run, in my back of my mind there’s that fear I’ll make the discomfort into a major issue, especially as my mileage gets up. As long as running won’t make it a serious injury (even if the running knocks up the pain level that’s OK as long as it doesn’t do irreparable damage or prevent me from running the marathon in 7 weeks), I’ll keep on training. I really don’t want to take anytime off. Thanks!


Rasmus July 25, 2011

Hi Jonathan.

About 3-4 months ago I played basketball with some friends between classes. Needless to say I was wearing the wrong footwear and skipped warming up all together. I was jumping and changing directions – afterwards I felt a strange huuming/buzzing in my left knee and it started swelling.
Since the incident I’ve been checked by a PT. Apparently there’s nothing wrong with my meniscus or ligaments. He told me the hamstring was the culprit (imbalance in my thigh), and gave me stretching and strengthening exercises.
The stretching and strengthening has helped (swelling is pretty my gone), but my left knee still feels different, unstable somehow. Lately I’ve discovered my left calf has some very tender points in the upper medial part of the gastrocnemius. When massaged pain shoots through the knee into the hamstring.

-What’s your thoughts on this?

With kind regards, Rasmus from Denmark

Umesh August 1, 2017

I have stiff muscles and got a fracture in my right thigh and doctors said that you may have stiff person syndrome. Now I get pain in my call muscles many times and I am not able to walk independently. I believe in acupressure theory as I have experimented for many problems like thyroid , headache,sinus etc. I ywant to know about some points to cure stiff person syndrome and as I have been told that I have I will appreciate if you can send me some information for cure of these symptoms.
Umesh Mehta

Lenfers Lenfers July 21, 2019

That seems to be my problem on my left leg. Right leg I don’t get it. But my calves on both sides are very tight every morning and take allot of stretching. I usually can’t resolve most fo the symptoms though unless I also use a foam roller for a bit and run those calves around on it. This is like a never ending cycle of tight muscles and pain around the calve, like trigger point knots, and also what seems like more problems in the fascia. One of my other problems is what seems like peripheral neuropathy in the both feet and foot tendon and toe problems. I don’t know exactly how to treat this since it would really take someone that knows exactly what they are looking at to separate which problem is which. All I know is the neuropathy symptoms are ganging up with the trigger point and maybe fascia symptoms. And my medical pretty much only covers tossing pain killers at it from a PCP Doctor that doesn’t know all of what he is dealing with. What type of practitioner if any that most medical insurance would cover might be able to properly diagnose and treat these issues. My home treatment of exercise and stretching and self massage is helping but its kind of like peeing on a forest fire to get it to back off.

Tight calves May 9, 2020

Yes , I was also suffering from calf pain but it got some relief with good shoes.

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