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Calf (anatomy)

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Calf (anatomy)

The calf is the back portion of the lower leg
Cross-section of left lower leg, through the calf, showing its 3 compartments: anterior at upper left; lateral at center left; deep posterior at center; superficial posterior at bottom right
Latin sura
Gray's subject #129 482

In human anatomy, the calf (also calf of the leg) is the back portion of the lower leg (the crus). In terms of muscle systems, the calf corresponds to the posterior compartment of the leg. Within the posterior compartment, the two largest muscles are known together as the calf muscle and attach to the heel via the Achilles tendon. Several other, smaller muscles attach to the knee, the ankle, and via long tendons to the toes : see Category:Calf muscles.

Etymology and history

Calf and calf of the leg are documented in use in Middle English, respectively, circa 1350 and 1425.[1]

Historically, the absence of calf, meaning a lower leg without a prominent calf muscle, was regarded by some authors as a sign of inferiority: it is well known that monkeys have no calves, and still less do they exist among the lower orders of mammals.[2]

Anatomy and pathology

Medical conditions that result in calf swelling among other symptoms include deep vein thrombosis[3] compartment syndrome,[4][5] Achilles tendon rupture, and varicose veins.

Idiopathic leg cramps are common and typically affect the calf muscles at night.[6] Edema also is common and in many cases idiopathic. In a small study of factory workers in good health, wearing compression garments helped to reduce edema and the pain associated with edema.[7] A small study of runners found that wearing knee-high compression stockings while running significantly improved performance.[8]

The circumference of the calf has been used to estimate selected health risks. In Spain, a study of 22,000 persons 65 or older found that a smaller calf circumference was associated with a higher risk of undernutrition.[9] In France, a study of 6265 persons 65 or older found an inverse correlation between calf circumference and carotid plaques.[10]

Calf augmentation and restoration is available, using a range of prosthesis devices and surgical techniques.

See also


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