Whether you're an athlete or not, it's likely that you've experienced a muscle strain before. Muscle strains aren't always a big deal compared to other orthopedic injuries, but they can be extremely painful and frustrating, especially if they happen frequently. If they happen enough, they can also become serious injuries.
If you're experiencing a strained muscle on the regular, there may be something you can do about it. Most muscle strains are preventable when you take the proper precautions, use the appropriate techniques, and listen when your body tells you it's had enough.
At , Dr. Michael J. Rytel and his team of experienced orthopaedic surgeons are experienced in treating common soft tissue injuries like muscle strains. We can help you figure out the root cause of your pulled muscle and put together a plan to prevent them in the future.
Here are some important facts about muscle strains, as well as 8 tips for preventing them in the first place:
What Is a Muscle Strain?
A muscle strain is a tear in the muscle tissue itself. It can range from a tiny, nearly unnoticeable tear to a complete rupture of the muscle. The most common type of muscle strain is a Grade I strain, which is a small tear in the muscle fibers. This is often referred to as a pulled muscle.
Grade II and III describe more severe strains. Grade II strains involve a partial tear of the muscle, while Grade III strains are a complete rupture of the muscle. These types of strains can be extremely painful and may require surgery to repair.
What Causes Muscle Strains?
There are a few different things that can cause a muscle strain, but most muscle strains occur when the muscle is overstretched or contracted too forcefully. This can happen when you make a sudden movement, lift something heavy, or fall.
Muscle strains can also be caused by repetitive motions. If you do the same thing over and over again, it puts strain on the same muscles and can lead to a muscle strain. This is common in athletes who play the same sport day after day.
Finally, muscle strains can be caused by weakness in the muscles or poor flexibility. When the muscles are weak, they're more likely to be strained. And if the muscles are tight and not very flexible, they're also more likely to be strained.
What Are Some Common Muscle Strain Symptoms?
The most common symptom of a muscle strain is pain. You may feel it right away as a sharp pain, or it may develop over time. Patients with muscle strains also report the following symptoms:
- Swelling occurs
- Muscle spasms
- Weakness in the muscle
- Tenderness in the injured area
Naturally, more severe injuries will cause more severe symptoms. If you think you've suffered a Grade II or III muscle strain, it's important to seek medical attention right away.
What Are the Most Common Types of Strain?
Strains can occur throughout the body. Some of the most common include:
- Hamstring Strain: This is the most common type of muscle strain. It occurs in the muscles in the back of the thigh and can range from mild to severe.
- Quadriceps Strain: This type of strain affects the muscles in the front of the thigh. It's not as common as a hamstring strain but can be just as severe.
- Groin Strain: A groin strain is a tear in the muscles that connect the thigh to the lower abdomen. It's a common injury in athletes, especially those who play hockey, football, and soccer.
- Calf Strain: A calf strain occurs in the muscles of the lower leg. It's a common injury in runners and can range from mild to severe.
- Achilles Tendon Strain: An Achilles tendon strain is a tear in the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel. It's a common injury in athletes, especially runners.
How to Prevent Muscle Strains
Now that you know more about muscle strains, let's talk about how to prevent them. There are a few different things you can do to reduce your risk of developing a muscle strain:
1. Warm up before you exercise.
Warming up before you exercise is one of the best ways to prevent a muscle strain. Start by doing some light aerobic activity, such as walking or jogging. Then, do some dynamic stretches, like leg swings and high knees. This will help increase blood flow to the muscles and prepare them for activity.
2. Don't push yourself too hard.
If you're just starting to exercise or getting back into shape after a long break, it's important to take things slowly at first. Don't try to do too much too soon. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts.
3. Use proper form.
Whether you're lifting weights or doing some other type of exercise, it's important to use proper form. This will help prevent injuries, including muscle strains. If you're not sure how to do an exercise correctly, ask a certified personal trainer or your doctor.
4. Wear the right shoes.
If you play a sport that requires special equipment, such as cleats, make sure you're wearing the right size and type of shoe. This will help prevent muscle strains and other injuries.
If you play a particular sport or do the same type of exercise every day, your muscles can become overworked. To help prevent this, it's important to cross-train. This means doing a variety of different activities and exercises that work different muscle groups. For example, if you play basketball, you might also want to swim or ride a bike.
6. Strength train.
Strength-training is another great way to prevent muscle strains. By building up the muscles, you'll make them stronger and less likely to be injured.
Stretching can help improve flexibility, which can help prevent injuries, including muscle strains. Aim to stretch every day, especially before and after exercise.
8. Get enough rest.
When you're tired, your muscles are more likely to be injured. To help prevent this, it's important to get enough rest. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Rest doesn't just refer to sleeping, though: it also means taking breaks throughout the day and not overdoing it with physical activity.
Treatment for Muscle Strains
Diagnosis or treatment of a pulled muscle begins with a physical exam. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. They will also do a physical exam, during which they will check for muscle tenderness, swelling, and weakness.
When it comes to muscle strains, treatment typically starts by using conservative measures that are designed to reduce pain as the muscle heals, such as:
- Rest: You will need to rest the muscle to allow it to heal. This means avoiding all activities that make the pain worse.
- Apply Ice: Applying an ice pack to the injured area for 15-20 minutes several times a day can help reduce pain and swelling.
- Compression: Wearing an elastic compression bandage can help reduce swelling.
- Elevation: Keeping the injured area elevated above heart level can also help reduce swelling.
- Take a Pain Reliever: Taking NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can offer pain relief and reduce inflammation.
If your muscle strain is severe, you may need to wear a splint or sling to immobilize the area. In some cases, physical therapy may be recommended.
If your symptoms don't improve with conservative treatment, your muscle may require surgical repair. This is rare and usually only occurs if the muscle is completely torn. If you have suffered a complete tear, you will likely need to have surgery within a few days.
In Pain Due to a Strain? Visit Dr. Rytel Today
If you think you may have suffered a muscle strain, it's important to seek medical help from a healthcare provider right away. The sooner you're seen, the sooner you can start treatment and begin the healing process.
The team at is experienced in diagnosing and treating all types of injuries, including muscle strains. We'll work with you to create a treatment plan that will help you make a full recovery and get back to your normal activities as soon as possible.
If you're ready to receive care from the best orthopedic doctors Pittsburgh has to offer, schedule your first appointment at Rytel Sports Medicine today.