A muscle strain or pulled muscle occurs when you overwork or overstretch your muscle. A muscle strain occurs because of weak muscles, fatigue, and while doing daily physical activities, playing sports, or because of pressure on muscles.
These strains can occur in any muscle but mostly in the lower back, neck, shoulders, and hamstring. If you contract your muscles beyond their capacity or put pressure on them beyond their limit, then microtears can occur in the tissues, leading to a strain.
These strains can cause pain and swelling; movement in muscle is also affected. Most people can treat the injury at home by doing some exercises or using hot and cold packs to avoid pain and swelling. But in severe cases, medical treatment is a required.
Symptoms of Muscle Strain
A variety of painful symptoms can be found, like:
- Mild to severe pain.
- Difficulty in movement.
- Muscle cramps.
- Rigidity in muscles.
A muscle strain can be put into different categories depending on its severity. With a mild strain, muscles become slightly stiff but can still move with ease. While in severe cases, a muscle cannot move and, swelling can also be seen alongside severe pain.
The symptoms of a mild strain can last for a few weeks. But in severe cases, it can last for months.
Physicians classified muscle strains into certain grades depends on the severity, so diagnosis and treatment can proceed accordingly.
Grade 1: it is a mild state of muscle strain, in this kind of muscle strain, a few tissues or fibres of muscle may become damaged or tear partially. It is painful, but the strength of the muscle is normal.
Grade 2: it is the most common form of strain. Tissues or fibres are injured or damaged with severe pain. There is also mild to severe swelling and a visible difference in muscle strength. In such situations, redness or a bruise can also be observed.
Grade 3: it is a severe form of strain. A muscle may be completely damaged or torn apart. As it’s a severe state, the muscle is in total rupture and an individual loses function and movement. Unbearable pain, swelling, redness, or a gap in muscles, can be seen in these strains.
Causes of Muscle Strains
An acute muscle strain can occur when a muscle is torn or pulled accidentally or suddenly. When a person overuses or stretches a muscle or experiences an accident, like a fall, strains can occur.
The most common causes:
- The sudden movement of the muscle.
- Heavy lifting or imbalanced movement of the muscle.
- Improper warming of the body before exercise.
- Weakness or fatigue.
- Lack of rest.
There is a major misconception that only heavy and rigid exercises cause muscle strains. Medical experts say that they can occur while just walking. In winter or low-temperature places, there is more chance of suffering from muscle strains because in low-temperature muscles become rigid and stiff, so sudden movement may cause strains.
An acute muscle strain can also happen when you’re lifting something up while in an awkward or uncomfortable position. It can also occur when running or throwing.
Chronic muscle strains happen because of continuous or repetitive movements and also because of bad posture.
In mild muscle strain, most cases are treated at home by stretching and some rest. The most recommended ways of treatment as told by the experts include, taking rest, applying hot and cold packs to avoid swelling, light stretching, and compressing the muscle using some flexible, warm pads.
It is important to note that too much rest may reduce blood flow and leads to weakening of the muscles. After some rest start moving your muscle slowly to improve blood flow.
Another important and quick way to treat a mild muscle strain is using ice packs to reduce or remove the swelling. Don’t put ice directly on the injured place, wrap it in a towel and then place on the muscle.
Whenever possible, keep the damaged muscle lifted above the level of your heart. This is to promote the transfer of venous blood.
For severe strains that struggle to heal, some physicians may recommend ultrasound imaging or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to examine the muscle properly. Most doctors prescribe physical therapy to restore movement and strengthen the muscles, and the use of medications to relieve pain and swelling can be prescribed.
In severe cases, surgery is needed to repair the muscle.
Precautions to avoid a muscle strain
By implementing the following measures, you can avoid the chance of muscle strains. Such as:
Avoid sitting in the same continuous position: When you are not moving for long, blood flow is not flowing properly in the muscles. This can cause cramps. To avoid this, try to move from time to time, and change your position regularly. Using a proper ergonomic chair for back support and sitting with good posture while doing work is very important. A tip to avoid strains is to try to level your knees with your hips.
Posture: While standing, sitting, or in a resting position, be very careful about your posture. Maintaining a good posture is key to a healthy physique. Try to balance your posture by putting the same stress on both feet to avoid back pain and strains.
Lift objects carefully: Be very careful while lifting anything that may be smaller or bigger. Never pick anything up by bending down without bending your knees.
Maintain your weight: Weight gain can put pressure on certain muscles.
Regular exercise: Daily walks or a light daily workout can help to keep your muscles and bones healthy. But make sure to warm up your body before any exercise.
It is vital to know your body’s limit before doing any work. If you feel any discomfort while doing exercise or any work, stop immediately.