A muscle strain is, in addition to muscle hardening, a typical and frequently occurring sports injury. Just like the torn muscle fiber, the muscle strain belongs to the closed muscle injuries because only the muscle is affected. From the outside, however, there is nothing to be seen that would suggest a strain.
What is a muscle strain?
Athletes in particular know them particularly well: muscle strains. This injury leaves the skin intact, making it a closed muscle injury (see also Sports Injuries). Depending on which parts of the body are being used, the strain can occur in any muscle group. See eshaoxing for Hyperparathyroidism Definition and Meaning.
While runners are more likely to pull muscles in the calf and thigh muscles, basketball players will have particular problems with the upper arm or shoulder muscles. Symptoms mainly consist of cramping pains in the affected part of the body. Depending on the severity of the injury, there may also be restricted mobility. However, in principle, a muscle strain is not actually an injury to the muscle; instead, a tightening of the muscle occurs because the muscle tone is disturbed.
Unlike other sports injuries, a muscle strain is not caused by external damage, but is caused by a disruption in muscle function. Excessive strain over a long period of time or a very rapid change in strain can lead to a disruption in muscle tension, which leads to a hardening of the muscle in question.
The result is cramp-like pain because the muscle can no longer relax as usual. In addition to excessive loads, there are other risk factors that promote the development of a muscle strain. In particular, people whose muscles are weak due to a lack of exercise are prone to strains when the muscles are suddenly subjected to greater stress.
There is also a risk if you do not warm up enough before exercising to stretch your muscles and thus increase your resilience. People who have too little liquid and electrolytes in their bodies or who eat poorly are also often affected. Illnesses, such as colds, weaken the muscles and can therefore pose an additional risk of muscle strain.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
When a muscle is pulled, there are initially slight symptoms such as a feeling of tension or a slight pulling in the affected muscle. The tissue is usually hardened, but this does not limit mobility. Those affected often try to release this tension through massage or moderate exercise.
In the course of the next few days, aching pain sets in, which slowly gets worse and finally develops into cramp-like symptoms. The affected limb can then no longer be moved without pain. Externally, a muscle strain can only be recognized by the described hardening of the muscles. Bleeding or effusion usually does not occur.
If you stop exercising and treat the strain quickly, the symptoms subside within four to six days. After that, moderate training can be resumed. However, if the strained muscle continues to be heavily loaded, the strain also increases.
Then, under certain circumstances, a muscle fiber tear can occur, which is associated with further complications. Incorrect treatment – such as massages that are too intensive – can also intensify the symptoms. Then the pain can spread to the surrounding regions, and in the worst case, chronic pain syndrome develops.
course of the disease
Unlike other sports injuries, a muscle strain usually develops gradually, while a hamstring tear occurs suddenly after a wrong movement.
The course of a strain is usually similar. The overstretching of the muscle causes a strong contraction, which in turn leads to a tightening.
Depending on the healing process, the duration of the strain can also vary. The pain usually subsides after a few days, but full healing usually takes up to three weeks.
The sooner the muscle strain is diagnosed and treated, the faster the affected person will be free of symptoms again.
Of course, various complications can arise when a muscle strain is present. In most cases, a muscle strain is caused by overloading or external violence. In such a case, the ligaments and tendons are stretched very much, resulting in a strain.
If the affected person continues to put a lot of strain on this part of the body, a muscle tear may even occur. This complication must definitely be examined by a doctor or treated accordingly. Otherwise, permanent consequential damage can occur, so that a full recovery is no longer possible.
In other cases, inflammation can develop in the muscle or in individual joints, which can even lead to an abscess. An abscess is an excessive collection of pus that needs treatment. If the bacteria and viruses get into the bloodstream, an infection can occur. The result is nausea, vomiting, fever, body aches and headaches.
Without medical treatment and without taking appropriate medication, a serious infection can develop, so that medical treatment should be resorted to. This is the only way to avoid the above complications. However, those who opt for early treatment can count on a speedy recovery and no serious complications.
When should you go to the doctor?
If unexpected severe muscle pain occurs during sudden movements, due to heavy physical exertion or sporting activities, a doctor should be consulted. You should also see a doctor after a fall or accident. Severe injuries or damage to the skeletal system must be ruled out in various tests and through the use of imaging methods.
If the person concerned is no longer able to exercise his body as usual, if there is a sudden decrease in physical performance or if severe pain occurs, he needs help. Self-determined intake of pain medication is not recommended. The risk of possible side effects is high, so it is recommended to consult a doctor to avoid complications before administering any medication.
Impaired locomotion, disturbances in the general movement sequences or a feeling of illness must be presented to a doctor. A pulling sensation in the body during movements, a sensory or perceptual disorder and irritability should be examined and treated. If there is hypersensitivity to touch, pain at rest or pressure, it is necessary to consult a doctor. A muscle strain must also be distinguished from a pinched nerve or existing damage to the nerve fibers by a doctor. In these cases there is a risk of permanent impairment, which should be avoided.
Treatment & Therapy
The main way to treat a muscle strain is to relieve the symptoms and correct the dysfunction of the muscle so that it can relax again. In any case, the load on the muscle should be stopped so that no further injuries can occur.
In addition, the muscle in question should be cooled with ice and elevated to keep the pain as low as possible. Depending on the severity of the strain, it often makes sense to apply a pressure bandage and ideally wrap it in combination with an ice pack.
However, care should be taken to avoid frostbite. It is also important that the pressure bandage does not cause any additional pain or even circulatory problems because it was wrapped too tightly. In addition, care should be taken to ensure that mobility is not restricted. A cooling sports gel can also provide relief for a muscle strain.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis for a muscle strain depends on how the person handles the muscle strain and the treatment. Ideally treated and spared distensions have an almost 100% chance of complete healing. This is usually the case within days or weeks and depends very much on the affected muscle and the state of health of the person concerned.
Important for a good prospect of an uncomplicated healing is the immediate interruption of the muscle load when the strain occurs. If a strained muscle continues to be strained, it can lead to a muscle fiber tear, which is more painful and lengthy to treat.
For the best prognosis, the affected muscle should be cooled and elevated as soon as possible. This prevents body fluids from entering and reduces swelling. In addition, the healing of the affected tissue is considerably facilitated.
In most cases, a muscle strain heals well within four to six days. However, you should avoid heavy strain on the muscles for a few days. However, light training, in which the muscle group is fully used (i.e. also stretched), is recommended in order to restore normal mobility. Muscles that have been pulled can sometimes be pulled again and again. Most often this is due to chronic overload.
Aftercare for a muscle strain focuses on the examination of the course of the disease by the responsible specialist. If the muscle strain does not heal or if rapid healing is desired, there are also healing-promoting measures. Electrical stimulation treatments are possible. In this form of therapy, the strained muscles are activated with electrical shocks, which is said to promote muscle healing.
Another alternative are enzyme preparations, which should contribute to the complete healing of the symptoms as part of the aftercare. Physical applications such as lymphatic drainage or cold treatments help the still weakened muscle to recover. After the muscle strain has largely healed, the doctor should be consulted again. The doctor will scan the muscle and, if necessary, carry out diagnostic imaging tests.
In the case of severe muscle strains, physiotherapy or PNF are then indicated. Active stretching is also part of the aftercare. In the case of serious injuries, an operation is necessary. After the operation and the immobilization of the affected limb, which takes between three and five weeks depending on the injury, the doctor must be consulted for a follow-up examination. After an operation, muscle-toning physiotherapy is often necessary to improve muscle mobility. Follow-up care is provided by a general practitioner, a sports physician or an orthopaedist.
You can do that yourself
A muscle strain requires a medical evaluation in any case. Acute complaints are treated according to the PECH principle: rest, ice, compression, elevation.
Sporting activity should be stopped immediately if a strain is suspected. The affected muscle must not be put under any further strain and requires rapid cooling, for example in the form of a cooling spray or a damp, cold compress. An elastic pressure bandage must then be applied. Ideally, the ice envelope is integrated into the bandage to ensure long-term cooling. Finally, the injured area must be elevated. The injury must then be examined again by a doctor and treated if necessary.
Rest is indicated after the treatment. The muscle may be used again after two weeks at the earliest, as long as the doctor responsible gives his approval. If pain, swelling or other symptoms appear, it is best to consult a doctor.
A positive course is guaranteed by massages and other cooling measures, among other things. In consultation with the doctor, alternative remedies such as marigold ointment or preparations from naturopathy can also be used. A warm bath or moderate physical exercise also strengthen the cardiovascular system and thus speed up recovery.