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Soleus Muscle Pain

The soleus muscle is a deep muscle in the calf that contributes to pain in the knee, calf, ankle, heel, and the low back. In rare instances, a trigger point in the muscle can cause pain in the jaw and side of the head.

Where Is The Soleus Muscle?

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

Looking for detailed muscle anatomy? Go to the Soleus Anatomy Page.

What Does The Soleus Muscle Do?

The soleus bends the ankle down toward the floor (plantarflexion)

Image demonstrating plantarflexion

Interesting Facts:

  • The soleus is sometimes called the second heart because it helps move blood back up to the heart from the feet and lower leg.
  • Doctors recommend people with heart conditions and circulatory problems regularly do exercises targeting the soleus muscle.
  • 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 relief, you should consider examining the soleus muscle.

Soleus Muscle Pain Sympotoms

Image showing the soleus muscle pain pattern

Trigger points in the soleus muscle usually cause deep aching pain in the back of the knee, calf, ankle, and heel. However, sharp stabbing pain can occur with specific movements. Bending the ankle up toward the body, walking downstairs or on an incline, and putting weight on the heel of your foot will often cause pain that will make you hesitate or stop the movement immediately.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain in the heel often to the point of not being able to put weight on the heel
  • Pain in the ankle
  • Pain in the calf when bending the ankle upward
  • Pain in the calf when walking downstairs or inclines
  • Pain in the calf when running
  • Pain in the calf that sometimes extends 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 the affected side
  • Hypersensitivity to touch in the lower back on the same side of the 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

What Causes Soleus Trigger Points To Develop?

  • Jogging and running
  • Walking/running uphill
  • Climbing
  • Climbing stairs
  • Cycling
  • Jumping
  • Wearing high heels
  • Wearing shoes with stiff, inflexible soles
  • Standing still for long periods
  • Using footstools and recliners that put pressure on the back of the calves
  • Immobility of the lower leg due to a cast or brace

Note: Trigger points often develop due to a strain or other injury to the back, hip, leg, ankle, and foot.

Other muscles, including the soleus, contribute to these conditions

Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

Satellite trigger points associated with the soleus muscle:

If you find TrPs in the soleus, check these muscles for additional trigger points:

Soleus Trigger Point Treatment

Image showing common trigger point locations in the soleus muscle.

The easiest way to learn to treat specific trigger points in the soleus muscle is to find a professional with training in trigger point pain and referred pain. Many massage therapists, physical therapists, and chiropractors have this specialized training. Be sure to ask before booking an appointment.

If you have patience and are willing to put in the time and practice, you can learn to self-treat trigger points. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is an excellent guide to learning this therapy. Ideally, the treatment needs to be done several times a day for 1-2 minutes per treatment for optimal results. Also, when you learn the techniques to self-treat, you will have a tool to treat and relieve muscle pain throughout the body.

The book recommends several tools to use during treatment. The most versatile of the suggested tools is the Thera Cane Massager. The cane can be used on other muscles, including those that are hard to reach, like the muscles of the back and bottom of the feet.

The Knobble is another tool that works well on the soleus muscle. The Knobbler is used to apply precise pressure to a trigger point and is used on other muscles that you can easily reach.

The last tool recommended is a massage ball. You place the ball on a stack of thick books on the floor. Then, you lie on the floor with your lower leg on the ball, supporting your body with your arms, and roll the ball up and down the leg. This method works very well, but you must have the arm strength to support your body weight and the ability to get down on the floor.

How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

Depending on the trigger points, you may feel some relieve quickly, but most feel noticeable relief in several days. The key to trigger point therapy is consistency in doing your treatments. You must do the treatments regularly and continue until the trigger point is gone.

How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The Soleus

  • Warming up before sports, exercise, and other strenuous activities is important. To warm up the soleus muscle, be sure to do ankle circles, flex the ankle up and down and point the toes several times.
  • When sitting with your legs or feet supported by an ottoman, footstool, or recliner, take a break, drop your legs, and put both feet on the ground. Get up, walk, flex the ankles, do circles with the ankles, and point the toes to relax the muscle and keep your circulation moving.
  • If you wear high heels, give your legs and feet a break by alternating to low heels or walking around barefoot several times during the day.
  • If you must stand in one spot for long periods, shift your weight foot to foot at the pace of your normal walking pace. This helps with circulation in the legs.
  • If a cast or heavy brace immobilizes your lower leg, ankle, or foot, ask your doctor if it would be safe to tense and relax the lower leg muscles throughout the day to help decrease stiffness in the calf muscles. For some injuries, this will NOT be possible.

Products We Use and Recommend For Low Leg Muscle Pain

The Roxofit Calf Support/Shin Splint provides support and warmth to the lower leg muscles. This brace is recommended for Achilles tendon strains, sprains, and also strains, sprains, and overuse injuries of the lower leg muscles. If you suspect or have ever been diagnosed with blood clots, consult your doctor before using this brace.

Sore shins or calves? Feel as if shin splints are coming on? The ProStretch Calf Stretcher & Foot Rocker can help! The stretcher/rocker stretches and helps relax most of the muscles in the lower leg and foot. Physical therapists use them to treat sore shins and calves as well as foot pain and plantar fasciitis.

Doctors and physical therapists often recommend using a TENS at home to relax muscles and ease the pain. The Belifu TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator is highly recommended and an excellent choice for treating upper and lower leg pain.

Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice for pain caused by trigger points, muscle/joint over-use and stiffness, and arthritis. If you have reoccurring leg or foot cramps, you should keep Somba on hand; it provides almost instant relief. (Not sold in stores)