Read below about bruised calf, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your bruised calf from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Bruise on calf
Bruise on leg
Bruised leg
Calf bruising
Calf is bruised
Leg bruising
Leg is bruised

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Bruised Calf Symptoms

Yikes! So much for wearing those new shorts. When checking out how you look in the mirror, something may have caught your attention. Your lower leg is terribly bruised, and you have no idea why. You're a bit concerned but more upset that your bruised calf is infringing on your fashion. Now that you've noticed the bruising, the pain is also becoming obvious.

There are a few symptoms to look out for when dealing with a bruised calf, such as:

The medical term for a bruise is a contusion. Bruises are common and develop when blood from damaged blood cells begin to collect near the skin's surface. This results in the common black and blue areas seen with bruising.

Bruises are caused by trauma. Walking into the kitchen counter can cause a bruise or being hit with a ball during softball practice can also cause one. Whenever your body encounters something hard, there's a risk for bruising.

Most of the time, bruises are just a part of life. But in some cases, they can signify a more serious condition. Before you start to panic, look at our causes section to see if you can solve the mystery of your bruised calf.

Bruised Calf Causes Overview

A bruised calf can have several causes.

Listed below are the most common cause categories of bruised calves.

  • Infectious causes: Infectious causes can occur in those with poor circulation, diabetes, or skin conditions. Bruising an occur after a minor injury, such as a small bump or even a bug bite. Fever and lower leg redness usually occur as well.

  • Traumatic causes: Traumatic causes are probably the most common. A strong blow or impact to the lower leg can cause a bruised calf, such as during a car accident, playing sports, or walking into a large or hard object at home. A bone fracture can also cause a bruise to appear.

  • Medical causes: Consider this cause if you do not remember anything injuring your leg. A vitamin deficiency is one example of a medical cause, along with diabetes or clotting disorders. The presence of a disease can also lead to bruising, such as cancer, but bruises are usually found throughout the entire body and not localized to just the calf.

10 Potential Bruised Calf Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Calf Bruise

    A bruise is the damage of the blood vessels that return blood to the heart (the capillaries and veins), which causes pooling of the blood. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Bruises of the calf are common, given the location on the body.

    Bruises will begin to heal over the course of a week

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one calf, calf pain from an injury, recent calf injury, swollen calf, bruised calf
    Symptoms that always occur with calf bruise:
    recent calf injury, calf pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Calf Strain

    A strain, commonly called a "pulled muscle," is when a muscle becomes overstretched, and microscopic tears occur. A calf strain happens when one of the muscles on the back of the lower leg is pulled.

    With proper medical attention, this condition should completely resolve.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one calf, moderate calf pain, calf pain, sports injury, soccer injury
    Symptoms that always occur with calf strain:
    pain in one calf
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Lower Leg Weakness

    Any leg weakness is a sign of nerve damage, which is very worrisome and requires you to go see a doctor immediately!

    MISSING

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    lower leg weakness, foot weakness, arm weakness, severe pelvis pain, loss of vision
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  4. 4.Congestive Heart Failure

    Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a form of heart failure that causes fluid to back up into the lungs and other tissue. Symptoms include trouble breathing and edema (swelling of ankles, hands)

    This is a lifelong condition but symptoms can be managed.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, cough at night, shortness of breath on exertion
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Viral (Norovirus) Infection

    Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that leads to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. These viruses cause gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. When the diarrhea and/or vomiting is severe, dehydration can occur. Symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth, dizziness, urinating less frequently and dark urine.

    Usually resolves within 2-3 days.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache
    Symptoms that always occur with viral (norovirus) infection:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea
    Symptoms that never occur with viral (norovirus) infection:
    severe abdominal pain, throbbing headache, severe headache, tarry stool, vaginal bleeding, alertness level change
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

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  6. 6.Non - Specific Dermatitis (Skin Inflammation)

    Dermatitis is the inflammation ("-itis") of the skin ("derma" is a layer of the skin). It can be caused by any number of causes, from allergies to infections to autoimmune issues. Dermatitis of Normal Variation (also called, "NOS") means that all of those other causes of your rash have been ruled out. This is very common.

    1-2 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    red rash, itchy rash, painful rash
    Symptoms that always occur with non-specific dermatitis (skin inflammation):
    red rash
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  7. 7.Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

    The kneecap (patella) is located directly in front of the thigh bone (femur), and should normally glide freely up and down. In this condition, called patellofemoral pain syndrome, the kneecap may rub against the thigh bone instead of gliding smoothly, causing damage and pain.

    Most people get better within weeks to months of physical therapy.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    knee pain, pain in one knee, knee pain that gets worse when going up stairs, dull, achy knee pain, knee pain that gets worse when squatting
    Symptoms that always occur with patellofemoral pain syndrome:
    knee pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Atrial Fibrillation

    An arrhythmia is a problem with the speed or rhythm of the heartbeat. The atria comprise two out of the four chambers of the heart. When their beat is disturbed, symptoms such as a racing heart, chest pain, breathlessness, and dizziness may occur.

    More than 1/2 of people with short term atrial fibrillation get their normal heart rhythm back in less than 2 days without any treatment.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, racing heart beat, lightheadedness
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  9. 9.Common Cold

    The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract.

    The common cold resolves within 7 to 10 days.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, cough, sore throat, congestion
    Symptoms that never occur with common cold:
    being severely ill, severe muscle aches, rash, severe headache, sinus pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  10. 10.Cellulitis

    Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and tissues underneath it. It is most commonly caused by Group A strep and typically enters the body through a break in the skin.

    Dependent on severity of infection

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, lower leg pain, lower leg redness, painful swelling in the lower leg, calf pain
    Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis:
    lower leg redness, area of skin redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Bruised Calf Treatments and Relief

Contusions usually go away quickly. However, severe cases may need immediate attention.

Here's how to know if it's time to head to the doctor.

Try the following treatments for a bruised calf, along with preventative measures if the bruising keeps coming back.

  • Rest. Avoid too much walking or physical activity.
  • Protect the Area. Use a soft bandage if necessary.
  • Ice Pack. Use ice wrapped in a clean cloth. Press gently and leave it on for twenty minutes.
  • Elevate. When resting, keep your leg above your heart.
  • Vinegar. Vinegar increases blood flow. Mix a little vinegar with warm water and apply it to the bruise with a clean cloth.
  • Medications. Over the counter pain medication can be used to minimize discomfort.

Bruised calf prevention:

  • Wear protective clothing when doing strenuous activities or sports
  • Clean wounds or scratches immediately with soap and water to avoid infection
  • Increase intake of leafy vegetables and fruits
  • Drink plenty of water

A bruised calf can make you want to cover your leg and wait out the discoloration. But in most cases, contusions are a normal reaction to trauma and nothing to be concerned about.

If you have a bruised calf, take it easy for a few days and you should see fast improvement.

FAQs About Bruised Calf

Here are some frequently asked questions about bruised calf.

How do you know if you have a blood clot in your legs?

Most small blood clots in the leg are asymptomatic. However, a solid mass within the leg, swelling of the leg, or skin changes can signify a more significant blood clot in the leg. Detection of the signs of a blood clot in the leg is difficult, however, and best left to medical professionals. There is no absolute way to determine if there is a blood clot in the leg by physical examination alone. Most medical professionals will administer a blood test (D-dimer) and /or a scan of the leg or lungs to check for a blood clot in the leg or a blood clot that embolized (travelled) to the lungs.

How do you know if you have a bone bruise?

A bone bruise is an injury to a bone that is less traumatic and less severe than a bone fracture. The outermost layers of bone are damaged and blood from broken blood vessels within the bone build up causing increased pressure. You may experience swelling, tenderness, pain, and swelling of a nearby joint if you have a bone bruise. They may be diagnosed via MRI scanning.

What can you do for a bruised calf muscle?

A bruised calf muscle can be treated by rest, heat and then cold (ice) treatment, OTC non-narcotic pain medication, and lots of hydration. Fluid will help the body remove the particles of broken blood cells within the tissue. Most bruised muslces will resolve on their own. However, if you have extreme swelling from a bleed within the muscle and intense pain, or intense pain followed by numbness, you may have compartment syndrome and may need urgent medical evaluation and decompression.

How long does it take for a bruised calf to heal?

Usually 1–2 weeks. A bruised calf consists of a bleed into the soft tissue of the calf muscle. The bleeding usually stops within a few minutes of the injury and then the skin begins to change color. The pain from the injury may persist for a few days and the chage in color may persist for one to two weeks.

When should you visit a doctor for a bruised calf?

Visit a medical professional if you have intense pain or loss of sensation or pulse. A bruise of the calf is not a medical emergency. The overwhelming majority of bruises will resolve on their own. However, the bleeding and swelling of a bruised calf can lead to compartment syndrome in which the different compartments of muscle swell, and the blood flow to the lower extremity is cut off causing ischemia and eventually death of the tissue (necrosis). This is signaled by intense pain, a lack of pulse or, sudden onset of numbness.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Bruised Calf

  • Q.Are you having any difficulty walking?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Q.Where on your lower leg are you experiencing pain?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our bruised calf symptom checker to find out more.

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Bruised Calf Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced bruised calf have also experienced:

    • 15% Lower Leg Bruise
    • 10% Thigh Bruise
    • 9% Upper Leg Bruise
  • People who have experienced bruised calf had symptoms persist for:

    • 34% Less Than a Week
    • 24% Over a Month
    • 16% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced bruised calf were most often matched with:

    • 4% Calf Bruise
    • 3% Calf Strain
    • 3% Lower Leg Weakness
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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