Muscle strains, or pulled muscles, is a very common form of injury in the United States. It is typically self diagnosed and self treated, but it is still important to know how to help your muscle heal after it is injured.
What is a muscle strain? A muscle strain is when your muscle stretches or tears past the point that it is supposed to be in. The muscle fibers in the muscle can tear, causing excessive pain to the effected area.
What causes strained muscles? Muscle strains can happen anytime, from exercising to walking. If the muscle is fatigued, not warmed up properly before exercise, or too cold, and it is strained or pulled too quickly, it will cause a strain.
What are the symptoms of a muscle strain? Symptoms include:
- Pain and soreness to the injured muscle area
- Limited ability to move muscle; stiffness and weakness
- Possible muscle spasms
The pain is typically instantaneous, and will continue until the muscle is healed.
How to care for a muscle strain? It is important to make sure and take it easy on the muscle that is affected. Using a heating pad and cold compress can help the swelling go down. R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is a good process to go through to make sure you are covering all of the bases of getting the muscle feeling better;
- Resting the strained muscle for a couple of days before using it for physical activities helps the muscle heal faster. After a couple of days of rest, start to slowly use and stretch the affected muscle to avoid stiffness and weakness.
- Icing the affected muscle will help the swelling stay down. After a couple of days, start using a heating pad on the affected area to help bring the blood flow back to the muscle.
- Compressing the affected muscle will also reduce swelling. Avoid wrapping the area too tightly, so it does not reduce blood flow to the muscle.
- Elevating the strained muscle above the level of your heart will help the swelling stay down, and it will help the blood flow as well.
If the affected area continues to cause pain or discomfort for longer than a week, has no blood flow, or the ability to move/walk is lost, it is very important that you visit a doctor immediately. Leaving the muscle like that for an extended period of time can cause serious damage. Healing the strained muscle may take a couple of days, but it is best to make sure it is back to good shape before trying to overuse the injured muscle. If you have any other questions on how to care for a strained muscle, consult with your doctor before attempting anything that may further harm the muscle.