Swollen Leg Calf Pain, What am I supposed to do now?

My leg started hurting about a year ago.

It's the outside of my calf in the middle. Went to the er because pain was so bad. Doctor said it was tendonitis and took me off work for three days.

At my checkup, my leg was very swollen and my doctor said I had severe tendonitis. She took me off work for three more weeks, gave me a anti-inflammitory and told me no gym for 6 weeks.

Most of the pain went away but if any pressure at all was placed on my leg it was tender and it would hurt. Now its a year later and the pain is back in full force and I don't know what to do.


Joshua Answers:

Hmmmmm. Interesting.

I needs more info!

1. Originally, did this calf pain come on fast and out of the blue, or did it slowly get worse over time?

2. What activities did/do you do. You said something about the gym.

3. When you say it was swollen, -how- swollen was it?

4. Was the skin in the area red, and if so, how red (and angry?)

5. Over the past year, has the pain been consistent, does it come and go. Was it tender on use/pressure the -entire- time?

6. Why do you think you got this 'tendonitis'?

7. Please describe as well as you can exactly where it hurts. Outside of the calf, half way up...meaning half way in the height of the belly of the calf muscles, or halfway point of the lower leg bone, or?

8. Please describe in detail, -how- it hurts. Sharp, burning, dull, aching, throbbing, etc.

The more clues I have, the better I can help you.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

Subscribe to The Tendonitis Expert Newsletter Today!

For TIPS, TRICKS, and up-to-date Tendonitis information you need!




Don't worry -- your e-mail address is totally secure.

I promise to use it only to send you The Tendonitis Expert Newsletter.

Comments for Swollen Leg Calf Pain, What am I supposed to do now?

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Aug 04, 2009
PART 2 - Swollen Leg Calf Pain, What am I supposed to do now?
by: Anonymous

The pain came on fast and out of the blue.

I was doing low-impact cardio at the gym.(the equipment is in a circle and you go from piece to piece)

I was also working a full time job at the time that consisted of me walking on concrete all day and going up and down ladders.

I cant remember which I was doing. I believe it was on a day after the gym that I felt the pain.

I didn't think it looked too swollen but my doctor did. There was enough swelling for it to be miscolored but thats about it. It got red but not very dark.

The pain goes away unless pressure is applied.

Example: my leg would be feeling fine until one of my daughters would try to climb in my lap(they are 20 lbs) then it would hurt really badly for awhile but not while I was walking on it.

It hurts in the very middle of my shin about four inches below my knee. Also ever since last night it has been throbbing nonstop and there is a sunken spot about the size of my thumb in that same spot.

Joshua Answers:

Again, hmmmm, interesting.

1. I'm not clear. Is the pain in the front of the shin, like shin splints, or is it back in the calf?

2. If it was an ER doctor I trust them to be able to rule out Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clot), though that's ringing an bell in the back of my head.

You don't have the activity history or all the 'right' symptoms to point to DVT, but it happens.

I don't know your injury background or if you can tell, but is the pain like a muscle/tendonitis kind of pain, or is it a slightly odd kind of pain/ache?

3. That indentation points to a good amount of swelling. Which doesn't really fit tendonitis. But if it's on the shin side, that's different, and points to something else entirely that does fit your activity history.

4. How big is the discolored area? How much darker than your regular flesh tone?

5. How old are you?

6. How old are you kids, or, what is the time difference between kids and onset of this pain?

Aug 04, 2009
PART 3 - Swollen Leg Calf Pain, What am I supposed to do now?
by: Anonymous

1.Front of shin

2. Went to ER today.(our local doctor sent me there)He walked to the door of the room, talked to me and sent me to x-ray. He never touched my leg or anything. He didnt find any fractures so he sent the nurse in with a prescription for steroids. She told me it was tendonitis.

3. The pain is not like any muscle pain I have ever had. I played basketball in school and was in the navy and I have never experienced any pain like this. I can tolerate it. It's like a dull pain that just lingers most of the time. When I have been walking or move the wrong was then it is a sharp stabbing pain. And for some reason when I am in a sitting position it hurts really badly.

4. About 1 inch wide and 3 inches long. Which is the only place that it hurts. Its just a little darker than usual. Pinkish.

5. I am 29 years old.

6. They are 6 and 2. I started having problems when I went back to work after staying home with my youngest for a year. I want very badly to be able to run and play around with my children but every time I try, this happens. I don't want to spend my life like this and I really don't know what else to do.

Aug 04, 2009
PART 4 - Swollen Leg Calf Pain, What am I supposed to do now?
by: The Tendonitis Expert

Joshua Comments:

Yeah, I hear you on the 'rest of my life' thing. Pain sucks.

If only I trusted doctors to be more accurate in these kind of things...the more obvious it is, the better doctors are at dealing with it.


Possibility #1. Blood clot.

This usually shows up from inactivity, and you were very active. And, you don't fit some of the other usual characteristics, like age and such.

You have some of the symptoms of blood clot, and symptoms not of blood clot. Usually not on the front like that.

Possibility #2, and what I'm leaning towards at the moment. Anterior Compartment Syndrome.

Caused by something like Shin Splints, or a sudden blow to the shins, Anterior Compartment Syndrome (ACS) is not Tibial Tendonitis or any other kind of Tendonitis.

Basically, ACS works like this. Irritation of some kinds causes a surge of extra fluid from the Process of Inflammation.

Too much, too fast, and the anterior compartment gets flooded, and in fact, overpressurized. This sets in place a mechanism where it stays overpressurized, can't get fluid out.

In extreme cases, as fluid keep filling the compartment, the tissue/skin/shin will literally split open, rather exploding from the inside. It doesn't actually explode, but in can cause a huge fissure in one's shin and muscle.

Literally, they stick a pressure gauge into the shin to see how much pressure build up there is.

This specific situation requires a trip to the ER and emergency surgery.

It -sounds- like you have a dynamic that is keeping an mild but significant ACS dynamic in place. Think of it as shin splints on high alert, wrapped tightly in saran wrap.

Clearly, you don't just have simple shin splints Tendonitis.

So, let's investigate.

If you press on the shin, does it feel tight, full, extra dense?

Is the swelling a soft squishy swelling, or does your shin feel -hard-, with some squishy swelling at the top, ie the puffiness around the indentation?

Poke around, explore. Tell me what you feel.

Also, so I'm clear, it's -all- in the front, or do you have pain/problem in the back side/calf side at all?

Also, since you didn't leave a name and I've been making assumptions, are you male or female?

Aug 04, 2009
PART 5 - Swollen Leg Calf Pain, What am I supposed to do now?
by: Kristen

Ok, sorry about the assumptions, I am a female.

My leg is hard except for the indentation. It is soft and squishy. No pain at all on the back of my leg but I do have some on one side of my leg. The inside part of my leg. Its not as bad as the front but it is pretty sore. It all feels kind of tied in together. Weird but that's how it feels.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Kristen. No worries. I was just looking for any possible links to pregnancy and DVT.

Sounds like Anterior Compartment Syndrome.

I'm a wee bit worried about the possibility of thrombosis, but I'm going to leave that to you to make the call on.

I'd put my money on compartment syndrome. Having said that, I'm not the guy to talk to about blood clots.

But until I see or hear evidence otherwise, I'm going with ACS. The 'hard' makes sense, the soft and squishy indentation doesn't quite make sense, but fits in the range of my understanding, if that makes sense.

So....did you get kicked in the shin? Hit your leg on something at work or otherwise? Drive a long time with your foot on the accellerator, muscle constantly working?

Work environment can explain it, but lots of people work like that with no problem, so we can investigate what other factors were in place that led to this.

And, everybody on a Bell Curve, you might just be at the end, the small numbers that just your work environment can cause this to happen to. Just because.

Either way, I can set you up with what to do about that. Probably not till tomorrow though, my time in front of the computer is now ending as I run off to other things.

Also, I'm going to have my Kerri take a look at this thread. She's a long time, bad ass ER nurse, and I asked her to weigh in.

Aug 04, 2009
PART 6 - Swollen Leg Calf Pain, What am I supposed to do now?
by: Kristen

Thank you very much for all the help.

This is very frustrating. And I have been kicked in the shin plenty of times.

Also, I don't know if this is relevant or not but I was in a car accident years ago and ever since then, right below the knee I have a permanent bruise(it looks like something is in there still)and every year I am getting more vericose veins going around that spot and down my leg.

Like I said it might mean nothing but I don't want to leave anything out. Thanks again.


Joshua Comments:

Ahhh, the plot thickens. Good clues.

1. Please say about the kicks in the shin. From your kids? From earlier in life? Same side that we're talking about? Please describe.

2. Also, please describe the accident. Did your leg hit anything? Describe the situation of the impact.

3. I never asked, which leg is it?

It's starting to make more sense now. More clues!

Aug 04, 2009
PART 7 - Going to the ER
by: Kerri Knox, RN-The Immune Health Queen!

Darn, they should have done an Ultrasound for DVT. I REALLY think that you should get DVT and compartment syndrome ruled out! Especially with the new spider veins, that sounds like pressure is building up.

Talk to your doctor because you can't even play with your kids, they need to check that out.

While you are at your doctor's, have them get a Vitamin D Level just for kicks because that deficiency can contribute to pain AND contribute to DVT's. If those come back negative, then I have some tricks that you can try, but I really feel like you need to get those ruled out before I can help with anything because on the outside chance that it IS a DVT, then anything that we might do could make it worse.

Sorry! I know that I was no help, and your doctor was concerned enough to send you to the ER, so ask your doctor to schedule an Outpatient Ultrasound of your leg.

Kerri Knox RN Immune Health Queen

Kerri Knox, RN- The Immune Health Queen
Functional Medicine Practitioner
Easy Immune Health.com

Aug 05, 2009
PART 8 - Swollen Shin Pain - HOLY CAR CRASH!
by: Kristen

Oh yeah, my kids kick me in the legs, got kicked plenty when I was a kid it was both sides.

The accident, from what I remember and what I have been told.

I got hit by a drunk driver about seven years ago. We were both going about 70. She hit the front side of my truck and my truck did a nosedive into the median. The truck then went airborne and flipped 8 or 9 times until it landed in a 30 foot ditch.

I was not wearing my seatbelt, thank goodness, and I got thrown around quite a bit until I was thrown out. Nothing was broken but I was bruised all over and I had that spot under my knee. It looks like a bruise and it is very small.

Within weeks I had a few vericose veins showing around it and now I have them around that whole area. The area is about 6 inches long and 3 inches wide.

I read the comment Keri left for me and I live in a very small area in Mississippi and none of the doctors have any machines in their offices. You have to go to the hospital or drive a hour or two to a bigger area.

I started wearing my splint last night and it has helped. I can feel the pain when I can it off and when I am in a sitting position.

If up reclining or walking it feels fine.


Joshua Comments:

Holy Bajoly! That's quite a car crash!

I'm amazed that we can survive that sort of thing. Crazy.

So that all makes sense. (-If-) somewhere in there you took a heavy blow to the lower leg/shin, which creates a deep bruise and swelling, more swelling than the body can handle, and essentially A. your lymphatic return system in the area is not turned off, and B. the mechanism is locked in place, it is predictable that this isn't going to just go away, and has the potential to turn BAD if you get kicked just right, or go for too long a walk, or or or.

The varicose veins are a function or the hydrostatic pressure/system being all messed up.

Anterior Compartment Syndrome is tough and takes time to deal with, but not complicated or mysterious.

Here's what I'm worried about. That same blow causing a deep bruise, could, long story short, also result in a Deep Vein Thrombosis.

I'm happy to tell you what to do about the Anterior Compartment Syndrome. It's not Tendonitis, but I've dealt with it before.

-AND-, purely to be on the safe side of things, I HIGHLY suggest that you take a trip to the hospital and get the ultrasound test for DVT.

Pain in the butt, but if it is a DVT that is cause of/part of your symptoms, it would be a very bad idea to ignore it/not know about it while treating the compartment syndrome.

Worst end of the spectrum, but if it's a blood clot and it breaks loose.....

Not a good scenario for you and your kids.

I'm playing conservative here, but I believe that it's worth it.

Aug 05, 2009
by: Kristen

Thank you very much for all of your help. I will be going to a bone and joint specialist, and I will write back whatever is found out.


Joshua Comments:

You are welcome.

I'll just assume that the specialist can do an ultrasound test for DVT.

BTW, I'm not saying that I'm not going to tell you what to do about the ACS until you test for DVT, I'm just saying it's a really good idea to do that before we go messing with it.

In the meantime, do avoid getting kicked in the shin again:)

Sep 30, 2009
Similar problem
by: John

Every so often (maybe twice a year) my lower left leg feels full of blood.

Eventually, and as I write, the skin splits. I have no idea what this is. It occurs 3-4 inches above the angle on the outer back of the leg. Before and after it splits the leg is very sensitive and painful in that area.

I asked a doctor about it once but they did not ahow any concern.


Joshua Comments:

Twice a year your leg swells up so much that your skin splits?

And your doctor's showed no concern?!?


Tell me more, and describe in greater detail. How bad does it split, any history of previous injury or heart/circulation problems.

More details, please, so I can get a better idea of what this is.

Sep 30, 2009
More information on the splitting skin
by: John

The split is about an inch wide and happened a few days ago. What tends to happen in the beginning is that for want of a better description my leg feels to full of blood. The area becomes very sensitive and painful when touched.

The swelling is not bad, at least when compared to some insect bites I have received in the past but the skin feels very tight and then after a few days of this condition it splits. Perhaps I should go and see a doctor again, although by the time I get an appointment it will probably have gone.

Actually I do have a scar when I tried to relieve the pressure several years ago during an occurence and went a bit too far with a pair of scissors. More information is that it does turn red where the pain is but not bright red.

I do not have circulation problems except occasionally my hands go a bit cold. I have no heart problems and a 46 year old male with a BMI around 23 so no weight problems either. I have low blood pressure as well.

I do not know when this problem started but I am pretty sure I have had it for at least 10, probably 15 years or maybe longer.


Joshua Comments:

Well, John, I have to say, I've never heard of that before. Intriging. Could be a valve problem, or some sort of weird blockage that only sometimes acts up.....but to get enough swelling to bust the skin.....

Does it bleed when it splits?

Give me a day or two to look into it.

Nov 19, 2009
Hey Joshua I need help
by: Karena (female)

Ok here I go, I fell in Oct 07 and my right outside ankle landed on the uneven ground, and I went down on that foot and had my weight on it...


Joshua Comments:

Hi Karena.

Please reply/comment with your email address and I will start a new thread for your question.


Jan 21, 2010
NEW QUESTION - The back of my left calf had a very prominant dark area
by: nothing anonamous herer it just me, Scared Tammy

Hi, thank for listening!

I am kinda scared, for the past three months I have had a very prominant dark area on the back of my left calf that goes from the higher middle to the lowest are of my calf.

I am of American Indian decent and my skin color is naturally darker than most Caucasians and this darker area never goes away but it does get darker almost like a dark bruise color and it makes my calf swell.

I am not sure this is a question for you, but thats my problem im not sure who its a question for, my family doctor thought it may be a sign of Lupus but the test results came back negitive. My family has a history of all sorts of blood disorders, heart problems, fibromyalgia, strokes, cancer ok to make a long story short my family has a history of ever magor illness known to man, lol!

But my biggest concern is blood clotting, stroke or heart desiese. My mother passed of Strokes, and my brother lost his leg to clotting gangreen and eventually died of a heartack at 34, and im 34 and freakin'!

I wouldnt say i'm the most involved in fitness but I am very active in my everyday life I run a mobil karaoke d.j. business where I lift heavy equiptment a lot, and I am the mother of 2 very busy lil ones. Please help, once again im very very scared.
Thank you, Tammy


Joshua Comments:

Hi Tammy.

Well, I'm not the best person to ask about this, but I'll put in my 2 cents.

1. I would get that calf an ultrasound test for DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and clotting. Then you'll know.

2. Overall, I'd say INCREASE your good nutrition and decrease intake sugar, processed foods and white flour, (and alcohol if you're a drinker).

3. With so much family health problem, SOMETHING is off. It's either poor nutrition (I like to call it the Safeway Diet) or something toxic in your area, or a detoxification problem (many people, and native americans moreso have a hard time with alcohol because they don't detox very well, so if there's poor nutrition/bad diet involved and your body has a hard time getting rid of metabolic breakdown and toxins.

Definitely make your diet REALLy clean and healthy, but first things first: Get that discoloration and swelling checked out.

Jan 23, 2010
Thank You Joshua
by: Nothing Anonamous here (just scared Tammy)

Sometimes I almost feel like my intuition is my best guide it pretty much told me exactly what you wrote.

I will definately get it checked out!
You are awsome for answering questions like this for people, Thanx again!


Joshua Comments:


Jan 28, 2010
New Commentor - Slightly swollen calf muscle
by: Anonymous

Hi.. I have been experiencing some pain in my left calf muscle. It seems to be where the muscle meets the shin area and spreads out to the inside, fattest part of the calf.

The pain sometimes radiates into the back of the leg and above my ankle and upward to the back of my knee.

The pain is a "pinching" sensation in the calf area, but it's an "aching" sensation in the other areas I mentioned.

The pain has been for a couple of weeks. Yesterday, I noticed that my calf on the painful leg is slightly swollen. It sticks out just a bit more than the other calf right at the "meaty" part of the muscle on the inner side.

I did go to the ER yesterday to rule out a DVT and they said the ultrasound was negative, but never gave me any answers as to what would be causing the pain or swelling.

I feel the cramping while sitting, laying, walking etc. It does not hurt any worse to apply pressure or flex though.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated!


Joshua Comments:

Hi Anonymous.

FYI, the ER is designed to rule out and/or deal with emergency. They're not designed to figure out what the problem is, so no surprise there.

Hmmm, what could it be, what could it be...

1. Magnesium (for Tendonitis).

Magnesium deficiency can result in cramping, spasm, twitch, pain, etc. Take your tolerance level for a while as described on the link at the bottom of the page linked to above (wow, that's a complicated sentence), and let me know what happens.

2. Serious Trigger Points.

Different people define them differently, but essentially they are little bits of a muscle that are stuck firing/contracting.

Read this page I'm about to put a link to, work on your calves a bit, and see what happens. Technically the page talks about trigger points and neck pain, but it applies directly to the calf as well.

Actually, this one trigger points and calf pain and then this one self treatment trigger points neck

3. Maybe you have some Tendonitis or even rip and tear in there that is sending out serious pain/problem signal.

Have you been active lately? Could you have injured it?

May 14, 2010
Pain right below Calf, increasing bruising and pain
by: Jay

I've got a few quick questions. Let me give you a little background info though.

Okay, last friday I was coming home from work and noticed what appeared to be a bruise on my leg right below my calf muscle on the inside. As time progressed it became more swelled, and more painful but didn't ever deepen in color.

Saturday morning rolled around, and I couldn't hardly walk. It was swelled up, and I had an area approximately 6 inches in diameter that was this light purple color. Its smaller in size now from a week ago. Probably about 4 inches in diameter.

As long as I ice the area, and keep it elevated; the pain is very dull. As soon as I get up and do any kind of activity, that area swells up as well as the inside of my ankle.

I've not been to the Doctor. I'm a bit stubborn so I've been poking around on the net.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Jay.

1. If you were running/jumping around, it could be a rip/tear (but doesn't really sound like it).

2. If you weren't, or even if you were, you HAVE to get yourself to a dr. or emergency room and have them do an ultrasound test to rule out Deep Vein Thrombosis (blockage of a vein).

My first impression from what you said, and my E.R./I.C.U nurse Kerri sitting right here agrees, is that it sounds like a DVT. From a medical perspective I really can't suggest anything else to you until you get DVT ruled out.

Again, it could be bruising from rip/tear from activity, but the description you gave points to DVT.

Get it checked out/ruled out.

Aug 15, 2010
Similar issues for me.
by: Todd

Ok, so the other night, while late my wife and I were enjoying each others time together when I got what felt like a huge charley horse in my calf. It was more on the side that on the back.
In the morning when I woke up and got out of bed the pain was terrible. I could hardly walk but well, off to work anyhow.

The pain is almost non existent when I am sitting unless I put any pressure on it by touching it.
The placement starts about 2 inches below my knee cap and runs down about 4 inches. It is not on the front at all and not on the inside at all but it starts about 2 inches to the outside from front dead center and runs all the way around to almost dead center in the back.

It is swollen but it is hard, I look like I have a muscular calf. :-)

I have noticed that it is worse after sitting or lying down for awhile. Once I get up it is extremely hard to walk on but eases after awhile but never goes away. Walking up any incline makes it worse.

Earlier today it was throbbing a bit but that has subseded.

I have had NO injuries to my let at all, with the exception of a chainsaw to the kneecap about 9 years ago but I was lucky. Just a few stitches.
To me it feels like a cramp that will not go away. Should I be concerned about this or just hang tight.



Joshua Comments:

Hi Todd.

It's likely one of two things.

1. If it's red, hot, swollen, and painful, then I'd be concerned about a possible DVT (deep vein thrombosis), a blood clot.

I don't know your health status, and you didn't say anything about red, hot, etc, but if such is the case, consider goign to the ER and getting an ultrasound test for DVT.

2. It sounds more like you had a cramp, and are stuck in cramp.

A cramp creates a HUGE amount of waste product and pain enhancing chemical, so it's unsurprising that it hurt A LOT the next day.

If if it's still stuck firing, that's not great.

First thing I'd do is run out and get some Magnesium (anything but magnesium oxide) and find your tolerance level, as described on this Magnesium Dosage page.

And eat some bannannas over the next couple days.

You need magnesium, potassium, possibly Calcium. And drink a lot of water (not bottled water that all the micro-nutrients have been filtered out).

If you're short on those, hello cramp. If you're really short on those, hello sustained/repetitive cramping.

Wouldn't hurt to ice and massage the area too, if you're sure it's not a DVT, in which case massage and ice would be BAD.

May 03, 2014
both legs huge from swelling on Lovenox and a filter
by: chad rankin

yes i have protein s deficiency and i take lovenox i also have a icv filter in place. I've had huge swollen calves before along with the rest of the leg I mean overly huge but this time is different its just my calves and they tend to reduce in swelling when i lay down for long periods.

As soon as im up and moving they quickly swell up again I'd normally go to the doctor but with being protected with the filter they quickly dismiss me.I have a rather serious question at hand here and its a little sensitive to most people so excuse the bluntness of it.

I want to know could I be having these symptoms because a dabble here and there nothing frequent though but i do dabble in the smoking of meth i only do it to receive extra energy during the spring so i can work in my yard and take care of all my other needs but this year the meth that i recently bought is somewhat different than what ive tried in the past springs.

Could there be an additive their using as a cut thats making my calves swell up its not only happening to me but my mother whom is 75 yrs. old dabbles to and she doesnt have the same medical issues that i have.

I'm not some junkie Im actually I just really dont see why its a illegal its your body and im not peddeling it to minors but i need to know if it could be the drug or its contents. thanks


Joshua Comments:

Hi Chad.

1. I'm not an expert on meth, so take that into account.

2. If you have vein issues that require meds to help prevent clot formation, and a filter, etc, that points to that you have some significant systemic health issue/lack of 'health'.

3. Absolutely meth can be cut with not-a-good-idea ingredients. Would they specifically cause 'swelling in the calves'? I doubt it. Would they negatively affect how well your body operates? Absolutely.

4. Don't get me started on politics and why the gov't feels it has a right and a duty to protect you from yourself....

P.S. Eat more protein.

Click here to add your own comments

Return to Ask The Tendonitis Expert .

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.