At 4 Life Physiotherapy, we work with many top-level sporting teams and as such treat muscle strains, also known as tears or pulls, daily. We perform comprehensive assessments of not just the symptoms of muscle strain, but importantly the underlying causes and contributing factors that led to the injury.
Muscle strains are most commonly associated with sporting injuries, but they also frequently occur in the workplace, in the process of going about our normal daily lives, and with incidents such as falls or slips. The most common sites of muscle strains tend to be the hamstrings, calf, quadriceps, and adductors (groin) muscles, but they can occur in almost any muscle in the body.
Tight muscles, knots/trigger points, muscle spasms, cramps, and referred pains are often incorrectly diagnosed as muscle strains. Although they can sometimes feel and present like a muscle strain, these are all different conditions and as such the treatment and rehabilitation of each differs.
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In simple terms, a muscle strain occurs when the mechanical load applied exceeds the capacity of the muscle. When we apply a load that is much greater than the capacity of the tissue there is a higher risk of pain or injury. It is important to consider that the capacity of a muscle can change dramatically over time. If you apply an increasing load to a tissue gradually over time and give time for the muscle to make adaptations to this load, you should be fine. This is because the capacity of the muscle will increase over time.
In an ideal situation, a muscle will increase capacity throughout pre-season training in preparation for the season. However, if we apply the load quicker than our body can adapt, such as introducing new exercises too quickly, an injury may occur. Stress, illness, poor nutrition, poor sleep and many other factors can also reduce the muscle’s capacity.
Accurate diagnosis, early management, and specific rehabilitation of muscle strains is crucial in getting you back to your normal activity sooner and in preventing injury recurrence.
Muscle strains are often poorly treated with many people believing that once their pain has resolved the muscle has healed. This is not the case. Pain often resolves within the first one to two weeks following muscle strain (depending on the severity of injury), but it can take weeks more for the muscle function to return to normal. If not properly assessed, an inadequate treatment plan may result in the muscle fibres failing to heal adequately and normal muscle function is unlikely to return. As such the risk of injury recurrence is high and with each re-injury your risk of future injury further increases.
Our detailed treatment and rehabilitation plans are tailored to the individual and are based on the latest research and best practice guidelines. This ensures a great outcome for our patients.
Early Management of Muscle Strain
Protect damaged tissue from more injury – stop activity ASAP, use crutches as needed (or a sling for upper limb muscle strains). Immobilise to reduce pain and bleeding, and prevent disruption of the healing process.
Rest for 3-5 days depending upon the severity of injury.
Apply ice to prevent pain and minimise swelling, bleeding and muscle spasm.
Ice with the injured muscle on a light stretch (pain free) to help prevent scarring.
Ice for 20 minutes every 2 hours on the first day and then every 4hrs until day 3.
Apply Compression ASAP to reduce swelling.
Ensure that it doesn’t impede proper blood flow to the end of the limbs or cause any pins and needles or numbness.
In addition to the above management, avoid any activities that will increase swelling and bleeding such as Heat, consumption of Alcohol, Running (and other vigorous activity) and Massage (H.A.R.M.).
It is also not recommended to take anti-inflammatory medication during the first three days following muscle strain as this may delay the bodies natural healing process.
How well you manage the injury during the acute phase can make a 1-2 week difference to your recovery time.
Seek expert advice at 4 Life Physiotherapy as soon as possible following muscle strain injury.
To reduce the risk of injury recurrence, treatment needs to focus on not just your symptoms of pain, swelling, weakness, and muscle spasm, but on addressing the underlying factors that contributed to your injury in the first place. These may include poor flexibility, poor muscle function, back pain and tightness, neural tension, pelvic asymmetries, muscle imbalances, biomechanical factors, poor technique, and training faults.
The Physiotherapists at 4 Life Physiotherapy have extensive experience in the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of muscle strains. Our physiotherapists have worked with sporting clubs and athletes of all ages and ability, from the weekend warrior to professional athletes. They keep up to date with the latest research on the treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries so that you get the best possible care.
So no matter what your level of activity, you can trust the team at 4 Life Physiotherapy to help you achieve the best possible outcome from your muscle strain injury.