A muscle strain or muscle pull is damage to muscle fibers or its tendons (end parts which are connected to bones). If there is extra pressure on muscles during the normal daily activities or athletic activities, it can overstretch the muscle fibers and cause a muscle pull or tearing. This tearing can be partial or complete.It can also damage small blood vessels, causing local bleeding (bruising) and pain (caused by irritation of the nerve endings in the area).
This overstretching usually happens in those athletes who participate in vigorous activity without proper warm up and stretching. It can also occur in the general more inactive population who suddenly start aggressive or unanticipated movements and over activate or overstratch their weak muscles fibers.
Muscle Strain Symptoms
Pain at rest
Pain in movement (contraction or stretching)
Swelling, bruising or redness
Weakness of the muscle or tendons
Inability to use the muscle at all
Sensitive to touch
Rehabilitation and Pain Management:
Immediately after injury, rest the strained muscle. Avoid the activities that caused the strain and other activities that are painful. Protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation (known as the PRICE formula) can help the affected muscle. Icing should be done for at least 20 minutes three times a day for the first 72 hours. This phase of injury is called the acute phase. You can start some gentle stretching during this phase, but should avoid any movements which cause pain in you.
After three days, you can improve your movements and do some more stretching exercises, but movements should still be pain free. In this step you can start heat therapy by putting hot pack on your affected area two to three time a day for 10 to 15 minutes. This phase is called sub-acute phase.
The last phase of injury is called chronic phase. In this phase you can start some strengthening exercises to regain your muscle power and help the muscle to reconstruct its fibers. You need to continue your stretching in this phase to avoid forming scar tissues. In this stage, pain should be completely gone and only weakness is the main problem to be solved. All three phases have different requirements to ensure the best recovery- all of which can be helped by a physiotherapist that will not only advise the best plan and exercises, but provide treatment for pain reduction.
In some cases which the tearing is complete and patient is not able to move the limb, surgery is needed to reattach the disconnected parts together- this is then followed by rehabilitation to retrain and lengthen the muscle.
The rehabilitation phase is a very important factor in treating the muscle injury- whether it was a partial or complete tear. Physiotherapy is able to perform treatment during each phase and reassess the patient’s strength and power in each stage. This ensures you can return to your desired activity or sport sooner rather than later!