Strains

Commonly, a strain occurs when your muscles are overloaded in areas such as shoulders, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and back. However, any muscle in your body is susceptible if overstretched or overloaded to its limit. A ‘torn’ muscle may conjure up an image of a rope being torn in half.

People often feel tight when there is a strain. The body causes the muscle to shorten so it can heal, leading to a tight feeling. This also is when spasms may occur.

A muscle’s response to an action or trauma is to spasm. This occurs when a muscle does not want to be overstretched or overused.

A strain affects the overall structure of the muscle, causing damage to blood vessels in that spot. Bleeding from the damaged vessels into surrounding muscle and tissues causes bruising, swelling and eventually, pain.

Grade I strain.

Only a few muscle fibres are stretched or torn. Although the injured muscle is tender and painful, it has normal strength.

Grade II strain.

A moderate strain, with a greater number of injured fibres and more severe muscle pain and tenderness. Mild swelling, noticeable loss of strength and sometimes a bruise.

Grade III strain.

Muscle tears all the way through, sometimes causing a pop sensation as the muscle rips into two pieces or shears away from tendon.

Serious injury that causes loss of muscle function, considerable pain, swelling, tenderness and discoloration.

Usually causes a sharp break in the normal outline of muscle, possibly causing a visible dent or gap under the skin where ripped muscle has come apart.

Strain Symptoms

  • Muscle pain and tenderness, especially after an activity that stretches or violently contracts the muscle. Pain usually increases when you move the muscle but is relieved by rest.
  • Muscle swelling, discoloration, or both
  • Muscle cramp or spasm
  • Decrease in muscle strength or (Grade III strains) a complete loss of muscle function
  • An audible ‘pop’ at the time of injury
  • A gap, dent, or other defect in muscle outline (Grade III strain)

Strain Diagnosis

Our therapists will ask what activity triggered your muscle pain, and if there was a ‘pop’ in the muscle at the time of injury. Our therapists will ask if you have decreased muscle strength or difficulty moving.

Please advise if you experienced fever, weight loss, leg numbness, urinary or bladder problems, or other unusual symptoms, as this may indicate a more severe medical problem.

After taking a comprehensive medical history, our therapist will check for muscle tenderness, spasm, weakness, and decreased muscle movement. If this exam points to a mild or moderate muscle strain, you may not need any additional testing. However, if the diagnosis is in doubt, a CT scan, Ultrasound or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) helps look more deeply into the injury.

If you have back pain, or if vertebrae bone or soft tissue is damaged, we may refer you to your GP for further testing.

Expected Duration

How long a sprain lasts depends on the location and severity of the injury. Symptoms of a mild back strain usually improve within 1 to 2 weeks and are gone within 4 to 6 weeks. In the legs, mild or moderate strains may take 8 to 10 weeks or more to heal. Symptoms of a severe (Grade III) strain may persist until the torn muscle is repaired surgically.

Strain Prevention

  • Warm up before participating in sports and activities
  • Follow an exercise program aimed at stretching and strengthening your muscles
  • Increase the intensity of your training program gradually. Never push yourself too hard, too soon
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. Obesity can stress muscles, especially in your legs and back
  • Practice good posture when you sit and stand
  • Use correct technique when you lift heavy loads

Strain Treatment

For Grade I or Grade II strains, it is good practice to follow the RICE rule:
  • Rest the injured muscle (and take a temporary break from sports/activities)
  • Ice the injured area to reduce swelling
  • Compress the muscle with an elastic bandage
  • Elevate the injured area

To help reduce pain and swelling, your GP or Osteopath may suggest anti-inflammatory medication.

Please seek medical advice to determine if this is the right treatment option for you.

If you have a severe Grade II or Grade III strain, further investigation by an orthopaedic specialist may be needed to determine if surgical repair is needed.

Mild strains may heal quickly on their own, but more severe strains may require a rehabilitation program.

When to Call Body@Boronia

Call us promptly if you:

Hear or feel a pop in your muscle at the time of injury.

Have severe pain, swelling or discoloration in the injured muscle.

Your injured muscle is obviously weak or has difficulty moving compared to the same muscle on the opposite side of your body.

Have mild muscle symptoms that do not improve after 48 hours.

Have severe back pain that makes it impossible for you to do normal daily activities, or you have mild back pain that worsens after a few days.

Are being treated for a strained back and your symptoms do not improve within two weeks.

A medical issue may be present if back pain occurs with any of these symptoms:

Fever or chills

Pain or a burning feeling when you urinate

Sudden weakness, numbness or tingling in a leg

Numbness in your groin or rectum

Difficulty controlling your bladder or bowel function

Prognosis

Recovery depends on the location and severity of your muscle strain

  • Almost all Grade I strains will heal within a few weeks.
  • Grade II strains may take 2-to-3 months or longer.
  • After surgery to repair a Grade III strain, most people regain normal muscle function after several months of rehabilitation.

Sprains

A sprain is an injury to a ligament (tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint). When a sprain happens, one or more ligaments is stretched or torn.

If enough force is placed on a joint to extend past its normal range of motion (ROM), then the ligament is under excessive load and stretches, and can damage the connective tissue fibres of the ligament. Sometimes, ligaments can be torn partially or fully.

Sprain Symptoms

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Not being able to use the joint
  • Unable to weight bear on the foot without pain

Causes of a Sprain

Falling, twisting, or getting hit can force your joint out of its normal position. This can cause ligaments around your joint to stretch or tear. Sprains usually happen when you:

  • Fall and land on an arm
  • Fall on the side of a foot
  • Twist a knee

Sprain Treatment

Treatments for sprains and strains are the same. After the injury has occurred, you should immediately follow the RICE rules to reduce swelling and pain in the first day or two:
  • Rest the injured muscle (and take a temporary break from sports/activities)
  • Ice the injured area to reduce swelling
  • Compress the muscle with an elastic bandage
  • Elevate the injured area

To help reduce pain and swelling, your GP or Osteopath may suggest anti-inflammatory medication.

Please seek medical advice to determine if this is the right treatment option for you.

After your initial self-treatment of the pain and swelling, our therapists will treat the affected area with methods such as manual therapy, taping, and home exercise. This helps prevent stiffness and increase strength. We will advise when you can recommence normal activities, including sports. If you begin too soon, you can re-injure the area.

When to Call Body@Boronia

Call us promptly if you:

Hear or feel a pop in your muscle at the time of injury.

Have severe pain, swelling or discoloration in the injured muscle.

Your injured muscle is obviously weak or has difficulty moving compared to the same muscle on the opposite side of your body.

Have mild muscle symptoms that do not improve after 48 hours.

Have severe back pain that makes it impossible for you to do normal daily activities, or you have mild back pain that worsens after a few days.

Are being treated for a strained back and your symptoms do not improve within two weeks.

If you experience concerning symptoms, chat with our reception staff to make an appointment with one of our experienced therapists.

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