Muscle strains can happen to anyone at any given time. You don’t need to be a sprinter to pull a hamstring, and you don’t need to be a bodybuilder to tear a bicep.
If you’ve ever had a muscle strain, you might’ve been recommended to visit a physiotherapist by your doctor, a family member, or a friend. With no previous knowledge on the benefits of physiotherapy, it’s easy to choose medication as a temporary measure to reduce and control pain.
However, choosing physiotherapy will treat the symptoms AND provide education on the extent of the injury, look at possible causes, and ways to prevent recurrence.
Strains and sprains may sound similar and are often confused, but they are two completely different types of injuries. Both muscle strains and ligament sprains can be excruciatingly painful and your physiotherapist will be able to assess the injured tissue accurately to develop an effective treatment plan.
A strain is the stretching or tearing of a muscle or tendon. The tendon is the connection of the muscle to the bone. A sprain, on the other hand, is a stretching of the ligaments which is tissue that connects two bones together.
Of course, any muscle in your body is subject to strains, but like any other injury, some occur more often than others. The most common muscle strains in the lower body occur within the hamstring, quadriceps, calf and groin muscles. In the upper body, the biceps and the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder are most vulnerable to muscle strain injuries
Upon your first visit, our physiotherapist will begin their assessment by gaining background knowledge on why, how and when your injury occurred.
Afterward, a physical examination will take place which will evaluate the extent of the muscle injury. Muscle strains are classified as 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree which defines the severity and establishes guidelines for the treatment plan and anticipated recovery time. The presence of bruising will indicate that there has been some tearing of muscle fibres – and the location and extent of the bruising helps the physiotherapist determine the degree of injury.
After a thorough assessment, the physiotherapist will create a treatment plan that will address the acute stage of your specific injury as well as long-term recovery goals. The rehabilitation process also includes education and suggestions to prevent recurrent and future injuries.
Physiotherapists choose, as indicated by the specific injury, from a variety of different methods of treatment to treat the injured muscle.
Learn more about our approach to treating muscle sprains and strains.
Electrotherapeutic devices such as ultrasound, interferential current, and TENs can aid in the healing process and with pain control in the acute stage.
By heating up the tissue, blood flow is increased in the area allowing for quicker recovery. Ice is known to be successful for pain control although the jury is out as to whether or not it helps to decrease inflamation and swelling. See our blog Shedding Some Light on the Icy Hot Debate for further reading on this topic.
Sometimes we need a little help from therapeutic tape to help the patient get back to full speed. Physiotherapists have a variety of tape products in their toolkits to apply proven taping techniques from the acute stage through return to activity. Tape can provide compression and support and can also be used to relax or facilitate the injured muscle.
A main focus after muscle strain is to help the patient heal with mobility. Muscle tightness can likely occur after an injury which will affect your ability to move the joint/muscle as you had previously and can contribute to re-injury. By assisting you in stretches proven to be beneficial for your specific injury, the stretches will help lengthen and loosen the muscles, ultimately increasing your flexibility and range of motion. Home exercises and self stretching are an important part of the treatment program!
Perhaps one of the most important and beneficial parts of Physiotherapy, injury-related strengthening exercises ensure that you maintain strength in areas surrounding the injury and regain the strength in the involved muscle safely. Strength exercises are carefully progressed as the injured muscle heals.
Combining exercises to restore mobility and regain strength and function will get back to your previous activities and work sooner, as well as help to prevent any future injuries.
Immediately after an injury, it is important that you follow RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate) protocol for the affected muscle/joint. This will act as the most effective treatment plan for the time being.
If the pain does not subside after two or three days, it may be time to visit our physiotherapist. With more treatment options than we have included in this blog, our physiotherapists are equipped to assess the injury and develop a treatment plan for every patient, of every lifestyle.
With years of experience in treating aches and pains, show up to your first appointment with confidence that the source of your pain will be identified, and treated accordingly.