Muscle Strain is No Walk in The Park
Muscle strain can be painful because of the damage sustained by the affected muscle and/or its attaching tendons. The damage typically takes the form of a partial or complete tearing of the muscle fibers that, as previously stated, may or may not include the tendons attached to them. The tear may also affect the small blood vessels in and around the affected muscle resulting in bruising, local bleeding, and pain.
Fortunately, a muscle strain isn’t the end of your physical fitness plans! While it isn’t a walk in the park, it’s a fairly common injury – just ask your fellow gym-goers at Powerhouse Gym and most of them have experienced it at one point or another. There’s also the fact that muscle strains can also happen in non-gym situations, such as when performing everyday activities or work tasks.
Here are other things that you may want to know about muscle strain so that your own experience with it will be less negative.
Set of Observable Symptoms
If you must find a silver lining about muscle strains, then consider the fact that these injuries come with a set of observable symptoms. You will immediately know that you may have a muscle strain so you can take the proper and prompt action.
- The site of the injury will have swelling, redness, or bruising almost immediately after the muscle fibers and/or its tendons have been damaged.
- The pain can range from mild to moderate, which can be felt either when you’re at rest or when the muscle or joint is in use.
- The affected muscle and/or tendons may be weak and, in many cases, even be too painful to use.
When most or all of these symptoms are present, you are most likely to have a muscle sprain especially when you have been engaged in sports or fitness activities. As can be concluded, you will be sidelined by the injury since you cannot use the affected muscle to its fullest capacity. You may have to favor the muscle, so to speak, by not using it for a time, especially when you’re engaged in physically strenuous exercises.
Medical Treatment May Be Necessary
But if you have concerns or doubts, it’s always best to seek medical advice. You should also go to your doctor under the following cases:
- If home remedies don’t bring relief from the pain within 24 hours
- If there’s significant injury to the muscle and tendons, as well as its surrounding area
- If there’s a popping sound heard after the injury
- If you cannot walk
- If the swelling, pain, or fever reaches significant levels
- If there are open cuts
In the hospital or in your doctor’s clinic, you will be subjected to medical tests including a physical examination of the affected area, a medical history, and laboratory exams. The latter can involve X-rays to determine the extent of the damage. The more damage there is, the longer the healing process will be, not to mention that there may be a possible surgery resulting in a complicated recovery process.
Home Care Methods Are Effective, Too
From mild to severe cases of muscle strain, doctors agree that self-care methods adopted at home are a must for a complete recovery. Medications can only do so much in restoring the health of the affected muscles and their tendons, after all.
The most important things to remember about effective home care for muscle strain are the following.
- Apply ice packs as early as possible on the affected area so that the local bleeding or swelling can be managed better. Be sure to keep the affected muscle in a relatively stretched position during the injury’s early stages.
- Apply heat pads only when the swelling has subsided. Too early heat application isn’t recommended because it can actually increase the amount of swelling and the severity of the pain.
- Use a clean towel or cloth as a protective barrier between the cold pack or heat pad and your skin. Direct application of cold and heat on the skin can increase the extent of the injury.
- Follow the PRICE protocol – protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation – so that the existing damage will not be worsened. The protocol can be summarized as follows:
- Protect the affected muscle.
- Rest it by avoiding activities behind the injury, as well as activities that can cause pain to the area.
- Ice the affected area, which can be done with an ice pack, a package of frozen peas, or ice cubes wrapped in a towel.
- Compress it by applying an elastic bandage but don’t wrap it too tightly.
- Elevate it by propping up your leg on pillows, for example.
You may also take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, which will decrease the pain and increase your mobility. But we also suggest asking your doctor about taking any medications since you may be allergic to them or you may have an underlying condition.
When you can move the affected area better, you may want to start on an exercise program upon the approval of your doctor. You should also adopt sensible measures to prevent a reoccurrence, such as stretching before and after exercise.