Soleus Muscle Pain, Strain or Tear: Causes & Treatment

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  • 0:03 The Soleus Muscle
  • 1:23 Soleus Pain, Strain, & Tear
  • 2:45 Soleus Strain Causes
  • 3:25 Soleus Strain Treatments
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alexandra Unfried

Alexandra earned her master's degree in nursing education and is currently a hospital supervisor/administrator.

The soleus is one of the muscles located in the calf. This lesson will discuss the type of pain and injury that can occur in the soleus, including the causes and treatment.

The Soleus Muscle

Carla has been training for a half marathon. She has been running a lot over the last six months. Her training includes running outside on a variety of different routes to incorporate hills and uneven terrain. Over the last three weeks, Carla has noticed pain in her right calf, close to the knee, during and after her training. She doesn't think that the injury is debilitating because she is still able to walk and get around, but she decides to go to the doctor to check out her symptoms.

The soleus muscle is one of three muscles located in the calf. The other two muscles in the calf are the gastrocnemius and the plantaris. The soleus is located on the back of the leg and it begins below the knee and ends at the heel. The soleus forms the Achilles tendon as it meets the gastrocnemius aponeurosis. An aponeurosis is a pearly white, tendon-like tissue of fibers that attaches muscles to other moving parts of the body.

The function of the soleus is to flex the foot at the ankle joint. It helps push the foot off the ground when walking and running. The muscle also helps with body posture and keeps the body from falling forward. The soleus plays an important role in blood circulation by returning blood to the heart.

Carla and her doctor are trying to decide if she has an injury to her gastrocnemius or her soleus. Carla begins to explain the following symptoms to her doctor.

Soleus Pain, Strain, & Tear

The terms strain and tear can be used interchangeably. Strains refer to a strained stretch or tear to a muscle or tendon. When the soleus is strained there will be tightness, stiffness, and pain felt in the calf, which is aggravated by walking or running. The pain usually gets worse over the course of several days to weeks and can have symptoms of swelling and minor weakness.

The pain in the soleus that's felt when strained includes symptoms such as:

  • Lateral pain (pain on either side of the calf)
  • Weakness in the calf when flexing the foot with the knee bent or flexed
  • Dull, aching pain that begins during or right after strenuous activity

The doctor completes several range of motion tests on Carla to clarify which muscle has been injured. Carla is asked to do a bent knee heel raise. She stands with her feet facing forward and hip width apart. She then bends her knees as far as she can while keeping her heels on the ground. As she raises her heels off the ground with her knees bent she feels pain in the calf. The doctor also notices that as Carla is standing, she is holding most of the weight in her right leg on the outside of the foot. Her foot arch is dropped and when she bends her knees the right knee points forward as her foot turns outward. These findings are consistent with a strain to the right soleus muscle. Carla asks her doctor what has caused the strain.

Soleus Strain Causes

The soleus muscle is usually injured only during strenuous activity. Different activities and circumstances that can strain the soleus muscle are:

  • Walking
  • Running (especially uphill)
  • Dancing
  • High jumping
  • Tennis
  • Biking
  • Improper alignment when standing (places a strain on one part of the muscle)

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