Muscle Strains: the Why and What to do.
So, a muscle strain is where a muscle tears through the muscle belly or around the musculotendinous junction (around the tendon area of the muscle). This is often very common amongst athletes, but also happens in non-athletes, and usually happens when some or all the fibers of a muscle fail to cope with the demand that the body is placing upon them.
When load overcomes the muscle strength or capacity, the muscle undergoes a strain, and a strain can cause a tear, so beware!
Because a muscle strain is usually caused by increased demands of the muscle or overstretching the muscle, it can happen in non contact sports as well, such as running or cycling.
The muscles most likely effected by muscle strains are the Quadriceps, Hamstrings and Calves. Why? These muscles exclusively cross over two joints in the body, so tension at both ends of the joints can often result in a muscle strain if the muscle is not conditioned properly.
Grading of muscle strains is important, because it allows us to plan your treatment plan more accurately:
Of course with most injuries, muscle strains are graded into 3 different categories –
- Grade I: Small number of fibers involved and causes local pain but no loss of strength. Often full active and passive range within the muscle, pain and tenderness often delayed to the next day.
- Grade II: A tear of a significant number of fibers with associated pain and swelling. The pain is reproduced with a muscle contraction. Strength is reduced and movement is limited by pain, however still able to apply weight on it.
- Grade III: A complete tear or rupture of the muscle. This is seen mostly at the musculotendinous junction and less in the muscle belly itself. This tear is accompanied by severe bruising and swelling and complete loss of function. Patients are usually unable to weight bare on the effected side. This is usually treated via surgical repair.
Management and Treatment:
Standard acute management applies the same for a muscle strain.
- Protection applied to the muscle to prevent further injury and pain.
- Rest is necessary to control the injury and begin the healing process, rest is different per strain grade
- Ice can be used for pain (analgesic) effects, although not normally recommended as it shows to slow down healing
- Compression bandages are useful in the reduction of swelling if necessary.
- Elevation is good to use with compression in the reduction of swelling
Of course this is just the acute phase of injury (first few days), as your muscle pain is reduced, a full rehabilitation progression combined with strengthening and lengthening of the torn muscle is needed for a full recovery back to sport!
A combination of hands on treatment and rehabilitation is key for full recovery!
With most injuries, there are usually a number of factors that can predispose you to a muscle strain that should be addressed to prevent future occurrence:
Obviously, you don’t want it to happen again!
These can include:
- Lack of warm up before exercise or over fatigue of the muscle beforehand
- Insufficient joint range of motion or excessive muscle tightness
- Muscle weakness (especially eccentrically)
- Previous Injury
- Faulty Biomechanics or Muscle Imbalance
- Spinal Dysfunction or core/joint stability
If you notice any of these factors occurring, or if you are struggling with a muscle strain let us know, we are here to help!