Understanding The Term Muscle Strain
Muscle damage and muscle strain occur on a spectrum and it refers to the damage done to the muscle fibres or tendons connected to a muscle. When a muscle is torn it can also cause damage to the surrounding blood vessels, which causes bruising and bleeding as well as pain due to the nerve endings that are present.
Signs And Symptoms Of Muscle Strain
When you have strained a muscle you are likely to feel pain even when the muscle is at rest. You will probably feel pain when you try to use the muscle too. You might have visible bruising, swelling or redness at the site. The muscle or tendons might feel weak and the pain or weakness may be so severe that you can’t use the muscle at all.
If you notice any of these symptoms it is a good idea to consider physiotherapy so you can get back to training as soon as possible.
What Can You Do For Muscle Strain Treatment?
It’s important to treat a strained muscle quickly by managing pain and swelling. This is usually done by following the RICE formula: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Rest means to protect the strained muscle against activities that cause pain and inflammation.
The key to good rest is knowing which activities you can and can’t do.
The aim of physical therapy is to continue with those exercises that you can manage while resting the affected muscle.
If you experience pain while you are at rest, your physical therapist may instruct you to sit for a short period with no activity.
An ice pack or compress should be held to the strained area as soon as possible. The sooner you can do this, the greater your chances of managing to swell are. Icing at different intervals throughout the day can help to relieve some of the discomfort caused by swelling.
To further manage to swell, it is advisable to compress or bandage the area up, starting from the area furthest away from the heart. Take care not to wrap it too tightly. Your therapist may recommend wrapping the muscle for physical therapy sessions.
Make sure the strained muscle is elevated above the heart, especially during sleep, as this can also help to reduce swelling.
The Benefits Of Physical Therapy For Muscle Strain Treatment
Managing pain and inflammation
Managing pain and inflammation is one of the biggest goals of physical therapy for muscle strain. Some degree of inflammation is actually needed to initiate the healing process so physiotherapy is aimed at controlling inflammation rather than stopping it altogether.
Ice and heat treatment
Working with physiotherapy can strengthen and improve the mobility of the affected muscle. Acute muscle strains tend to respond well to ice and compression. Strains that are not acute often benefit from heat treatment. Your physical therapist can advise you on whether heat or ice will benefit your injury.
In some cases of muscle strain, massage therapy can hinder healing and recovery, particularly in cases where the strain is severe or when a long time period has elapsed since sustaining the injury.
Medication for pain and swelling
Sometimes it may be necessary to use the medication in order to control pain and/or swelling in order to speed up the healing process.
Muscle stretching exercises
Once the inflammation and pain are under control, your physical therapist will take you through a series of stretches to work on your muscle strength and flexibility. The stretches assist in preserving your range of motion and train the muscles undergoing the healing not to overstretch.
When the muscle is close to the end of its healing stage you will be able to begin more dynamic stretches. These stretches will prepare the muscle for movement and activity.
Strengthening exercises will need to be performed in order to retain the strained muscle back into shape. Muscle contractions are a simple but effective way to do this. As you move forward in recovery you will be able to add more complex exercises into the mix, which cause you to move your limb and add your body weight as resistance.
Healing and recovering from a muscle strain requires a slow, steady and incremental return to your normal activities. It’s important not to rush yourself and cause a secondary injury. Working with a physical therapist can ensure you pace yourself correctly, that your form and technique are on point and that you don’t overdo it.
If you need help with muscle strain treatment, it’s important you get treatment as soon as possible. Please contact us for an appointment: (02) 9159 6903.