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Soleus Muscle: Heel, Ankle, Calf, Knee, Low Back Pain

(Last Updated On: August 10, 2018)

Pain in the heel, ankle, calf, and low back can be a sign of soleus muscle. A trigger point in this muscle can also contribute to TMJ type pain as well as pain on the side of the head.

What pain and symptoms are associated with the soleus muscle?

  • Pain in the heel often to the point of not being able to put weight on the heel
  • Pain in the ankle
  • Pain when bending the ankle downward
  • Pain in the calf sometimes extending into the back of the knee
  • Deep aching in the back of the knee
  • Deep pain in the low back on the same side of affected side
  • Hypersensitivity to touch in the lower back on the same side of affected side
  • Poor circulation in the lower legs and feet
  • Swelling in the ankle and foot
  • Pain in the jaw and on the side of the head

Where is the soleus muscle?

It attaches to the large bone in the shin (tibia) and to the head of the small bone (fibula) also in the lower leg. It travels down the back of leg to join with the Achilles’ tendon. The Achilles’ tendon continues down  to connect to the heel bone (calcaneus).

What movements does the soleus control?

  • Bends the ankle downward
  • Standing on your toes
  • Pointing your toes

Activities that cause soleus muscle pain and symptoms:

  • Walking uphill
  • Climbing
  • Climbing stairs
  • Cycling
  • Jumping
  • Wearing high heels
  • Using footstools and recliners that put pressure on the back of the calves
  • Immobility of the lower leg due to a cast or brace

Soleus Muscle Origin, Insertion, Action, Innervation

You use the soleus muscle when you stand on your toes and point your toes.

Interesting facts about the soleus muscle:

  • The soleus is sometimes called the second heart because it helps pump blood up from the feet and lower leg.
  • A trigger point in the soleus muscle can cause jaw pain and pain on the side of the face  and head. If you are suffering from pain in the under eye, cheek and jaw area and cannot find relieve, you should consider examining the soleus muscle.

Clinical diagnoses to which the soleus muscle symptoms may contribute:

  • Peripheral vascular disease (PVD)
  • Thrombophlebitis
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Superficial vascular thrombosis (SVT)
  • Varicose veins
  • Nocturnal cramping
  • Tennis leg
  • Post-exercise soreness
  • Posterior compartment syndrome
  • Buckling knee syndrome
  • Dislocation/Subluxation of knee
  • Heel spur
  • Posteromedial Shin splint
  • Bruised periosteum of the tibia
  • Baker’s cyst
  • Ruptured Achilles tendon
  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Plantars wart
  • Bone spur
  • Sciatica
  • Hip rotator dysfunction
  • Temporomandibular joint Dysfunction (TMD)

Other muscles that should be considered and examined in conjunction with the soleus muscles:

Satellite trigger points associated with the soleus muscle:

  • Gastrocnemius
  • Quadriceps
  • Tibialis Posterior
  • Extensor Digitorum Longus
  • Peroneus Tertius
  • Extensor Hallucis Longus

For detailed anatomy information: Soleus Anatomy: Origin, Insertion, Action, Innervation Edit

Help with Soleus Muscle Injury and Pain

Cold Therapy Gel For Calf, Knee, Ankle Injury and Inflammation

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is an excellent pain relieving gel and I recommend it for those who have sudden onset muscle pain or recent injuries. It is better to use than warm therapy gels and creams for muscle pain caused by inflammation as it cools the area much like ice. A recent study showed that Biofreeze decreased pain 2 times more than ice and the pain relief lasts 9 – 10 longer. If  your pain is from a recent calf injury I would recommend Biofreeze. Rub the gel behind the knee, down the back of the leg, around the ankle and heel for soleus muscle pain.

Hot Cold Pack For Lower Leg Treatment

CorPak Soft Comfort Hot & Cold Pack Wrap is a versatile pack that can be used to treat the lower leg, foot / ankle, as well as other areas of the body. This pack works well for the soleus muscle as it will cover the length of the calf and can then be used to wrap the foot for full treatment. The pack is filled with pliable gel and has a soft frost free cover that will not irritate your skin. For recent injuries, use it cold to reduce swelling. For older injures or chronic pain use heat to relax the muscles and increase circulation.

Warm Therapy Gel for Lower Leg, Knee and Ankle Pain and Stiffness

Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is a pain relieving gel that is highly recommended. It provides warmth without burning heat and is great for relieving pain. Applying Sombra to the muscles behind the knee, down the back of the leg continuing down and around the heel can help reduce pain and tightness caused by the soleus muscle. I recommend Sombra for chronic pain and pain from arthritis.

Lower Leg Compression Sleeves

Lower Leg Compression Sleeves are used by many athletes. Compression sleeves provide compression, support and warmth without adding bulk to the lower leg muscles. Sleeves are recommended by athletic trainers for shin splints. strained calf muscles and overuse injuries of the lower leg muscles. Sleeves are also great as a preventative measure against shin splints and tired sore calf muscles after sports activities. Compression sleeves are also shown to reduce recovery time after strenuous activities and injury.

Note: If you suspect or have ever been diagnosed with blood clots consult your doctor before using compression sleeves or braces.

Graduated Compression Socks for Support and Recovery

Eurosocks Over The Calf Compression Socks have become a go-to for both amateur and professional athletes for lower leg, ankle and foot injury recovery. Graduated compression helps relieve pain from muscle stiffness and soreness as well as discouraging inflammation. The socks wickable fabric keeps skin dry and DryStat technology inhibits the growth of odor causing microbes. The over the calf style works very well for soleus muscle recovery as the sock will cover the entire muscle. If you suspect or have been treated for blood clots, consult with a doctor before using compression on the lower legs.

Neoprene Calf/Shin Brace Splint

Neo G Medical Grade VCS Calf Support/Shin Splint provides support and warmth to the lower leg muscles. This brace is recommended for Achilles tendon strain or sprain, and also strains, sprains and overuse injuries of the lower leg muscles. An excellent choice for soleus muscle support.  If you suspect or have ever been diagnosed with blood clots consult your doctor before using this brace.

Stretch The Calf and Foot Muscles To Relieve Flexor Digitorum Longus Foot Pain

Medi-Dyne Pro Stretch for Plantar Fascitis and Calf Pain is a device that provides a deep stretch to the foot and lower leg muscles. This device is used in many physical therapists offices and rehab facilities for those who have lower leg pain and cramps and for those who suffer from plantar fasciitis. When you first use the Pro Stretch be sure to start off slowly, 5 to 10 seconds per stretch, gradually building up reps and longer stretch times.

Foam Roller For Treatment of Calf Muscles

I recommend The Tiger Tail 18″ Roller to use on both upper and lower leg muscles to help relieve muscle tension and pain. I like the Tiger Tail for its ease of use and because it does not strain the wrists and hands. You do not have to contort into different positions or get on the floor or up against the wall to use this foam roller, simply roll it up or down the muscle. The 18″ is a good size to use on leg muscles as well as other muscles. The roller is also recommended by physical therapists, athletic trainers and doctors for self-treatment of muscles in between appointments. It works well on the soleus muscle to relieve tightness and pain in the calf. Start the roller at the bottom of the back of the lower leg and roll up toward the back of the knee. (Do not use on the area behind the knee!)  Be sure to work the full muscle, going up the middle of the leg as well as the sides. Start off light, with just a few strokes, stop and wait a few hours to see how the muscle and soft tissue react. Over doing rolling can make the pain and soreness worse.

Self Treatment Techniques For Soleus Muscle Calf Pain

Do you know that “knots” or other dysfunction in the soleus muscle can cause jaw pain and headaches as well as lower leg and low back pain?

If this pain pattern sounds familiar I recommend that you purchase Claire Davies The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. Mr. Davies explains the trigger point phenomenon and muscle pain in everyday language. But what makes this book worth its weight in gold are the individual muscle trigger point treatments that Davies has compiled. His diagrams and step by step instructions help you locate which muscles are contributing to your pain and how to find the trigger point and treat it. It takes time and practice to master finding trigger points, but once you learn you have a tool and method to help relieve muscle pain throughout the body. If you suffer from unresolved lower leg, heel, and low back pain I highly recommend this book. It takes time and practice to master finding trigger points, but once you learn you have a tool and method to help relieve muscle pain throughout the body. Relieving trigger points in the soleus muscles may help you resolve some of your pain issues. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in finding the cause and treating muscle pain.

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