A muscle strain is a common injury among people who participate in sports activities. This type of sports related injury happens when muscles get stretched beyond their limit, tearing the muscle fibers. A muscle strain can also occur when there is a direct blow to the muscles. It frequently happens near the point where muscles join the connective tissues of the tendon. Some cases of strained muscles are mild and heal fast, while others are severe and may take months to heal.
A muscle strain causes sudden pain in the affected area that can be quite severe. The affected area may be tender to touch and can result in visible bruises if blood vessels are also broken. Patients with strained muscles in the thigh area may experience a snapping or popping sensation as the muscle tears. Other common signs of a strain include cramping, inflammation, swelling and weakness.
- Poor conditioning: One is more likely to be injured if they have weak muscles since they are less able to cope with the stress of exercise.
- Muscle Tightness: The tighter the muscles, the more vulnerable they are to strain. Athletes are encouraged to follow a consistent program of daily stretching exercises.
- Muscle Imbalance: Muscle imbalance is when one group of muscles is stronger than its opposing muscle group. The imbalance can lead to a strain. For example, the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh are usually more powerful than the hamstring muscles at the back. Activities that require high speed movements can easily cause the hamstring to become fatigued, more than the quadriceps, which can lead to a strain.
- Muscle fatigue: Too much fatigue reduces the capability of muscles to absorb energy, making them more susceptible to injury.
You can prevent muscle strains by warming up before any exercise session or sports activity. Warming up reduces stiffness and increases the range of motion. Ensure you stretch slowly and gradually and hold each stretch to give your muscles time to lengthen and respond. Professional sports people are advised to condition their muscles with a regular exercise program based on their activity level and age. Strength training is a great way to exercise under a controlled environment and helps to reduce sports related injuries.
If you have a muscle strain, you need to stop exercising and give time for your muscles to heal first. Strained muscles are vulnerable to re-injury and it is vital to visit your physician to give you the next course of action depending on the severity of your injuries. R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) is usually considered as one of the most effective ways to treat sports-related injuries, including strained muscles.
- Rest: Take time off from strenuous activities. You may need to use crutches for a while to avoid putting pressure to the affected area.
- Ice: Apply ice packs on the affected area for a few minutes at a time, several times a day.
- Compression: Wear a bandage around the affected area to prevent blood loss or additional swelling.
- Elevation: If you have a knee strain, prop or recline your leg, so that it is higher than your heart while resting.
Some cases of muscle strain are so severe that it may take months before one can fully heal. Most of the patients are encouraged to undergo physical therapy to help improve their strength and range of motion. Recovering professional athletes are advised to work-out under the guidance of a professional trainer to help them perform exercise routines that will minimize the risk of future injuries.