Men's Articles

Pulled Muscles (Strains)


A muscle pull is an overstretching of the fibers within the muscle to the point the fibers actually start to tear. Whenever a muscle is forcibly contracted and there is resistance or pull in the opposite direction, a muscle pull can occur. A tear occurs when there is an even greater force, and sometimes a complete rupture of the muscle can happen. Muscle pulls or tears can be relatively minor, causing a few days of tenderness, or rather severe injuries.

Minor muscle pulls should not be ignored as continued stress can cause more serious injuries. A "pull" is a lay term for a tearing of a muscle and is technically known as a strain. Strains are of three types: mild (grade 1), moderate (grade 2), or severe (grade 3). The treatment for a muscle pull depends on its severity. Through appropriate treatment, the damage can be minimized and the return to injury-free activity can be assured.

Once a muscle has been injured, it is tighter than before and a concentrated flexibility program is needed for that muscle. Rehabilitation and use of protection when returning to the activity are very important in the recovery of strains. If this is a repeat injury, complications can arise, such as prolonged healing time if activity is resumed too soon, inflammation at the attachment to the bone, etc.

Muscle injuries almost always imply either improper conditioning or a preexisting vulnerability. Determination needs to be made if any predisposing factors contributed to the original injury, such as inadequate warm up, lack of flexibility, or developing an exercise program too quickly. Strength conditioning exercises and improved flexibility will help avoid reinjury and cramping.

A cautious program of increased exposure to localized stress of the injured area will enable return to activity with less probability of reinjury. Small amounts of discomfort during a return to activity are to be expected. Call your doctor if you have any symptoms of a muscle pull, tear or strain, and follow the prescribed treatment/rehabilitation.

A groin strain is an injury to the muscles or tendons in the area of the groin where the abdomen meets the thigh. Signs and symptoms of a groin strain or pull include pain in the groin with motion or stretching the leg at the hip joint; muscle spasm in the abdomen or thigh; swelling in the groin; loss of strength; a "crackling" feeling and sound when the injured area is pressed with fingers; and calcification of a muscle or its tendon (seen with X-ray).

The treatment for a groin strain is the same as for any other muscle injury: R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation), and whatever instructions the doctor orders. A grade 1 (mild) strain can take from 2-10 days to heal; 10 days to 6 weeks is needed for a grade 2 (moderate) strain; and a severe strain (grade 3) may require 6-10 weeks for a full recovery.

A pulled hamstring is an injury to a hamstring tendon. The hamstrings connect the muscles of the thigh to the back and side of the knee. Hamstring injuries are fairly common, especially in runners. Signs and symptoms of a pulled hamstring include pain when moving or stretching the leg; muscle spasm of the injured muscles; swelling over the injury; weakened leg (grade 2 or 3 injury); "crackling" feeling and sound when the injured area is pressed with fingers; calcification of the tendon or muscles (seen with X-ray); and inflammation of the sheath covering the tendon.

Treatment for a pulled hamstring depends on its severity, which can only be determined by a doctor. The treatment may consist primarily of rest, followed by rehabilitation exercises when supportive wrapping is no longer needed. Tape, plaster splints, or a cast may be applied, and crutches may be needed. Once the acute stage has passed, gentle stretching exercises with a mild strengthening program should be initiated.

Gradual increase in activity is recommended and physical therapy may be prescribed. The best treatment, though, is prevention with stretching exercises to maintain the appropriate length of the muscles and use of protective equipment during participation in contact sports. Average healing time for a mild strain (grade 1) is 2-10 days, for a moderate strain (grade 2) 10 days to 6 weeks, and for a severe strain (grade 3) 6-10 weeks.

A calf strain involves injury to the muscles and tendons in the lower leg (calf). Signs and symptoms of a calf strain include pain when moving or stretching the foot or ankle; muscle spasm in the calf; swelling over the injury; loss of strength (grade 2 or 3 injury); "crackling" feeling and sound when the injured area is pressed with fingers; calcification of the tendon or muscles (seen with X-ray); and inflammation of the tendon sheath.

Treatment for a calf strain involves R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation), and whatever schedule prescribed by your physician. A cast or splints are sometimes necessary. Begin rehabilitation exercises when supportive wrapping is no longer needed. A mild strain (grade 1) heals in about 2-10 days; a grade 2 (moderate) strain requires 10 days to 6 weeks; and a severe (grade 3) strain 6-10 weeks.

 

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