Muscle Strains – Symptoms, Causes & First Aid
A muscle strain, or pulled muscle, occurs when your muscle is overstretched or torn. This usually occurs as a result of fatigue, overuse, or improper use of a muscle. Strains can happen in any muscle, but they’re most common in your lower back, neck, shoulder, and hamstring, which is the muscle behind your thigh.
- sudden onset of pain
- limited range of movement
- bruising or discoloration
- a “knotted-up” feeling
- muscle spasms
- The symptoms of mild-to-moderate muscle strains usually go away within a few weeks. More severe strains may take months to heal.
CAUSES OF MUSCLE STRAINS
- not warming up properly before physical activity
- poor flexibility
- poor conditioning
- overexertion and fatigue
Chronic muscle strains are the result of repetitive movement. This can be due to:
- sports like rowing, tennis, golf, or baseball
- holding your back or neck in an awkward position for long periods of time, such as when you work at a desk
- poor posture
FIRST AID FOR MUSCLE STRAINS – RICE
Don’t worry you don’t have to eat tons of rice 🙂 muscle strains can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE).
REST – Avoid using your muscle for a few days, especially if movement causes an increase in pain. Too much rest can cause muscles to become weak, which can prolong the healing process. After two days, slowly begin using the affected muscle group, taking care not to overdo it.
ICE – Apply ice immediately after injuring your muscle. This will minimize swelling. Don’t put ice directly on your skin. Use an ice pack or wrap ice in a towel. Keep the ice on your muscle for about 20 minutes. Repeat every hour on the first day. For the next several days, apply ice every four hours.
COMPRESSION – To reduce swelling, wrap the affected area with an elastic bandage until swelling comes down. Be careful not to wrap the area too tightly, as this can reduce your blood circulation.
ELEVATION – Whenever possible, keep the injured muscle raised above the level of your heart.
Other self-care methods include the following:
- Use an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil). This will help keep pain and swelling down. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help with pain.
- After three days, apply heat to the muscle several times a day. This will help bring blood circulation to the area for healing.
- Don’t rest your muscle for too long. This can cause stiffness and weakness. Begin light stretching as soon as possible. Slowly increase your level of activity.
- When you return to normal activity, make sure to stretch and warm up before exercising. This will help increase blood flow to your muscles and decrease you risk of injury.
- You should make an effort to stay in shape. You’re less likely to suffer a strain if your muscles are strong and healthy.
If your muscle strain is severe, you may need medical attention. Physical therapy may also be recommended.