Anatomy and function of the calf muscle (2023)

The calf consists of two muscles, the soleus and the gastrocnemius, a large muscle located at the back of the leg. The gastrocnemius muscle is the prime mover of the leg and is responsible for normal walking and running movements. The gastrocnemius joins the foot and forms theAchilles tendon, the large tendon that attaches to the heel bone. You have two abdominal muscles, one in each leg.

Anatomy and function of the calf muscle (1)


The gastrocnemius muscle originates from two heads behind the knee. The medial or inner head originates from the medial condyle at the back of the femur (femur). The lateral head on the outside of the leg arises from the lateral condyle of the femur.

The muscle then runs down the back of the leg and connects to the deeper sole. Both make up the Achilles tendon and attach to the back of the calcaneus or heel bone. Some anatomy experts consider the gastrocnemius and soleus as a single unit and are often referred to as the triceps muscle group.(Triplemeans three, andSURATrefers to the calf muscle.)

The gastrocnemius muscle is superficial. You can see it well and it can be played on the back of the foot.

It is interesting to note that about ten to thirty percent of people have a small sesamoid or swimming bone called a fabella in the lateral region of the gastrocnemius.This anatomical deviation usually does not cause any functional problems.

The gastrocnemius muscle is innervated by a nerve called the tibial nerve. It emerges from the greatIschiasnerv. The tibial section is mainly supplied by the first and second sacral nerves in the lower back. Your doctor will test the function of this nerve by testing your deep tendon reflexes with a small mallet.

The artery that supplies blood to the gastrocnemius is the carotid artery. This artery originates from the popliteal artery behind the knee.

Anatomy and function of the calf muscle (2)


The main function of the gastrocnemius muscle is plantar flexion of the ankle. This means that when the stomach contracts, the ankle and toes point down. When you walk, run or climb stairs, the muscle bends the ankle and pushes it forward.

The muscle is considered one of the “anti-gravity” muscles. It works along with itNotebooksmgluteal muscleto straighten our body against gravity. When the foot is on the ground, the gastrocnemius also stabilizes the foot and ankle.

Because the gastrocnemius crosses the knee joint in the back, it is considered a structural muscle. Therefore, it not only acts on the ankle, but also on the knee. The function of the hamstrings at the knee is to work with the hamstrings to flex the knee joint.

As a two-joint muscle, the gastrocnemius is susceptible to significant stress and overuse during its function. This can lead to muscle problems.

Anatomy and function of leg muscles


A wide range of diseases can affect the calf muscles in the lower legs. This may include:

  • Strain or rupture of the medial gastrocnemius:This happens when the muscle is overworked and tears occur in the gastrointestinal tract. This leads to pain, swelling, bruising and reduced strength in the gastrocnemius muscle.
  • Achilles tendonitis:Your Achilles tendon can become irritated due to improper foot and leg mechanics or repetitive strain on the tendon. In this case, Achilles tendinitis may occur. The hallmarks of Achilles tendonitis are severe pain in the tendon behind the heel bone, difficulty walking or running, and swelling near the Achilles tendon at the back of the foot.
  • Achilllessehnenriss:If the calf muscle and Achilles tendon are suddenly overloaded and can no longer handle the force properly, an Achilles tendon rupture can occur. Achilles tendon rupture can be partial or complete. When this happens, you are likely to experience pain, swelling and difficulty walking. Usually, but not always, an Achilles tendon rupture leads to surgery to correct the problem.

Calf muscle disorders also include:

  • calf cramps:Many people tend to have calvescramps. Those sudden, tight, tight sensations in your gastrocnemius can happen randomly.The cause of stomach cramps remains a mystery, but many people assume that they are due to an imbalance of water and electrolytes in the muscles.
  • Paralysis or weakness due to damage to the tibial nerve: If you have back pain andSciatica, the nerve that goes to the gastrocnemius can be pinched.This may be becauseforamen stenosisor herniated disc in the back. THEpinched nervereduces signals from the brain to the gastrocnemius, which can lead to weakness or paralysis of the muscle. You may have difficulty contracting the muscle when you walk, and you may notice significant atrophy or shrinkage of the gastrocnemius.

If you have gastrocnemius pain or limited mobility, it is important to see your doctor. He or she can diagnose your condition and get you on the road to recovery.


If you have suffered a gastrocnemius injury, your doctor can determine the nature of your condition and help you find the best treatment for you. working with aphysiotherapistmay be a good idea to help with various gastrocnemius injuries.

Initial treatment for many gastrocnemius injuries usually involves a period of rest or immobilization.This allows the calf muscle to heal so you can begin to restore flexibility and strength to the muscle. Your doctor may prescribe the use of a device such as aStockor crutches to reduce the force on your gastrocnemius during this healing period. After a short period of rest, calf rehabilitation can begin.

Your gastrocnemius rehabilitation will depend on the severity and type of injury you sustained, and your doctor will likely use a variety of treatments to help you make a full recovery. This may include:

  • Massage: Massaging the gastrocnemius muscles can help improve local blood flow and tissue elasticity, relieving pain and spasms.It is commonly used to treat calf strains or tears, calf cramps, and Achilles tendonitis. A special type of massage calledmobilization of scar tissuecan be used if you have had calf or Achilles tendon surgery. This can help improve tissue mobility around the resulting scar.
  • Gastrointestinal Stretch:Improving the flexibility of your gastrocnemius muscles may be part of your rehabilitation.Stretching exercises such as the towel calf stretch or the runner's stretch can help improve flexibility and GI mobility in the ankles and knees. Calf stretches can also relieve muscle spasms. Most stretches last 15 to 30 seconds and can be done several times a day.
  • Kinesiologia Taping:Your doctor may bandage the gastrocnemius muscle as part of rehabilitation for the injury. Kinesiology tape can help reduce pain and improve how the GI tract contracts to support the ankle and knee.
  • Strengthening exercises: Working on stomach strength can be an important part of injury recovery. If you feel weak because of a pinched nerve, it mightBack exercises to relieve the nerve. Then you can work on strengthening your calf muscles. It may also be helpful to strengthen the calf after exercise. Exercises such as resistance band ankle plantar flexion can be done or you can do heel raises on a step to strengthen the GI tract. A special program for the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle groups is calledAlfredson protocol. The calf and Achilles tendon are sufficiently stressed by eccentric exercises to prevent problems such as Achilles tendinitis.
  • Natural Ways:Your PT may use heat orultrasonicas another treatment option.Heat improves blood flow to the muscles and a deep heating treatment called ultrasound can be used. Ultrasound penetrates the gastrointestinal muscles, where it improves blood flow and tissue mobility. However, caution is advised. Many studies have shown that ultrasound has little therapeutic benefit and may not be more effective than simply exercising the muscles in improving blood flow.
  • balance exercises: Your gastrocnemius is an important lower limb stabilizer and is active when your foot is on the ground to stabilize your foot. Doing balance exercises can help improve stomach function so you can walk and run normally again.Exercises such as the one leg stand can be performed. using oneBAPS plateA wobble board or wobble board can also help, and standing on a BOSU ball can improve balance and gastrocnemius function.

Recovery from a gastrocnemius injury can take anywhere from two to 12 weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to understand your specific prognosis and what to expect from your GI rehabilitation.

A word from Verywell

The gastrocnemius muscle is an important mover in the ankle and knee joints and works with neighboring muscles to help stabilize the foot during walking and running. It is also prone to various injuries and diseases. Understanding the gastrocnemius muscle can help you fully recover from an injury. This allows you to quickly return to your normal activity and function.

common questions

  • Why do I get leg cramps at night?

    Sitting or standing for long periods during the day, straining your muscles, and sitting in a way that restricts blood flow can cause leg cramps at night. Night cramps are very common in pregnant women, probably because the extra weight puts pressure on the calf muscles.

    To learn more:How to control cramps during pregnancy

  • How can I avoid calf muscle pain after exercise?

    Stay hydrated during exercise and throughout the day to avoid cramping. You can also try eating more foods rich in magnesium and potassium.Wearing warm socks can also prevent muscle cramps.

    To learn more:Avoid leg cramps

  • What muscles work with the gastrocnemius muscle?

    The gastrocnemius muscle attaches to the plantar minor muscle, which runs down the back of the leg to the Achilles tendon. Together, these muscles allow the leg to walk, run, jump and extend.

    To learn more:It causes pain in the Achilles tendon

16 fonts

Verywell Health uses only quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read ourseditorial processto learn more about how we fact-check and ensure our content is accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Cleveland Clinic.Wadenmuskel.

  2. Dalip D, Iwanaga J, Oskouian RJ, Tubbs RS.A comprehensive review of Fabella Bone.treatment. 2018? 10 (6). two: 10.7759/cureus.2736

  3. Green, B., McClelland, J.A., Semciw, A.I.and othersThe assessment, treatment and prevention of calf muscle strain injuries: a qualitative study of the practices and perspectives of 20 physicians with sports medicine experience.Sports Medicine – Open8,10 (2022). doi: 10.1186/s40798-021-00364-0

  4. Behringer M, Moser M, McCourt M, Montag J, Mester J.A promising approach to effectively reduce human muscle spasm sensitivity: a randomized controlled clinical trial. ANOTHER. 2014; 9(4): e94910. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094910

  5. Patil R, Verkey P, Patil H, Manoharan D.Isolated tibial nerve injury: a rare occurrence.Plastic Res. Aesthetics. 2015; 2 (2): 85. doi: 10.4103/2347-9264.153207

  6. Medline Plus.Sciatica.

  7. Nedergaard, A., Jespersen, J.G., Pingel, J.and othersEffects of two weeks of lower limb immobilization and two separate rehabilitation programs on gastrocnemius muscle protein turnover signaling and gene normalization.BMC-Res-Notizen5.166 (2012).

  8. There is JS.Therapeutic effects of massage and electrotherapy on muscle tone, stiffness and muscle contraction after gastrocnemius muscle fatigue.Journal of Physiotherapy Science. 2017; 29 (1): 144-147. doi: 10.1589/jpts.29.144

  9. Sato S., Hiraizumi K., Kiyono R. et al.The effects of static stretching programs on muscle strength and architecture of the medial gastrocnemius muscles.Von Giminiani R, Hrsg.Other. 2020; 15(7):e0235679. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0235679

  10. Merino-Marban R, Mayorga-Vega D, Fernandez-Rodriguez E. et al.Effect of kinesio taping on calf pain and ankle mobility in two-sport athletes.Journal of Human Kinetics. 2013; 37(1):129-135. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2013-0033

  11. Lee YS, Bae SH.The effect of route of administration, temperature and time of application on gastrocnemius muscle activation in healthy subjects.KSPM. 2017? 12 (2): 1-8. two: 10.13066/kspm.2017.12.2.1

  12. Maritz CA, Silbernagel KG.A prospective cohort study of the effects of a balance training program including calf muscle strengthening in older adults living in communal accommodation.Journal of Geriatric Physiotherapy. 2016; 39(3):125-131. doi: 10.1519/JPT.00000000000000059

  13. Shoeb Mohd.Effect of Baps Board exercises compared to Frenkel exercises on balance in stroke patients - a pilot study.IJRASET. doi:1020;8(6):2469-2473. two: 10.22214/ijraset.2020.6397

  14. Cleveland Clinic.leg cramps. Updated August 3, 2020.

  15. Harvard Health.Take that, muscle cramps!Released on February 12, 2021.

  16. Cleveland Clinic.Wadenmuskel. Updated August 5, 2021.

Further reading

  • Andjelkov K, Atanasijevic TC, Popovic VM, Sforza M, Atkinson CJ, Soldierovic I. Anatomical aspects of the gastrocnemius muscles.J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg.2016; 69 (8): 1102-8. doi:10.1016/j.bjps.2016.04.002

Anatomy and function of the calf muscle (3)

VonBrett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT is a Physical Therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital treatment.

See the drafting process

Meet our team of specialist doctors

share comments

Was this page helpful?

Thank you for your response!

What are your comments?

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kerri Lueilwitz

Last Updated: 06/25/2023

Views: 5792

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (67 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kerri Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1992-10-31

Address: Suite 878 3699 Chantelle Roads, Colebury, NC 68599

Phone: +6111989609516

Job: Chief Farming Manager

Hobby: Mycology, Stone skipping, Dowsing, Whittling, Taxidermy, Sand art, Roller skating

Introduction: My name is Kerri Lueilwitz, I am a courageous, gentle, quaint, thankful, outstanding, brave, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.