Muscles are made of many fibers that work together to give us a range of movement (ROM) and strength. A muscle strain happens when we over-exert those fibers in a way that causes them to tear. This happens most often from overuse or improper use of the muscle. For example, trying to lift a weight that’s too heavy or pushing your run too far.
Muscle Injury Classification
There are three grades of muscle injury based on the number of damaged muscle fibers. The different grades help classify the number of damaged fibers as well as the effects the injury has on ROM and strength.
Grade I – Mild
Mild strains affect a smaller number of fibers and do not decrease strength or ROM.
Grade II – Moderate
With moderate strains, the strain tears almost half the muscle fibers. There is also significant pain and swelling and some bruising. Muscle strength decreases slightly.
Grade III – Severe
A severe strain means the muscle fibers are almost all damaged. As a result, either the muscles tear in half or the tendon separates from the muscle. This injury causes severe pain and swelling and complete loss of function.
Treatments for muscle strain focus on repairing the damaged muscle, often with rest, and restoring the muscle to its prior level of function (PLOF) including ROM and flexibility.
Most muscle strains need only basic treatment to heal. The most common is the RICE protocol:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen can also be used with the RICE protocol to manage pain.
Physical therapy (PT) for muscle strains focuses on strength, endurance, and stability. Strength is your ability to exert force on an object, such as picking up a dumbbell or lifting your own body weight, while endurance is your ability to perform a repetitive action. Stability refers to your muscle’s ability to maintain a position, such as when we flex or balance. All three are important for restoring full ROM and the functionality of a muscle.
For Grade III strains, when the muscle has or almost has completely torn, surgery may be needed to repair the injury and return the muscle to PLOF.
When you have a muscle strain, it’s important to identify the cause. If you don’t know the cause, you’ll likely repeat the action that caused the strain. This and resuming activities too quickly after a strain can cause the injury to flare or can cause further damage as the activity tears more muscle fibers.
You can help prevent muscle strain by following a few simple guidelines.
Stretch & Strengthen
Stretching and strengthening your muscles help prepare them for exercise. Regularly stretching before and after activity, as well as building muscle strength, will help with endurance and stability. This, in turn, prevents your muscle from those situations that cause muscle strain such as overexertion or sharp strains as when happens when you twist your ankle.
Listen to your Body
“No pain, no gain” is a familiar saying, but the pain is a warning sign. If you feel pain, it’s your body telling you that you should pay attention. If you feel pain or fatigue in your muscles, it’s time to slow down, stop, or gently stretch them out to help prevent strains.
Practice Proper Techniques
Proper form and technique are vital for any activity. When we don’t follow the right technique or do so in the right form, this puts unnecessary and dangerous strain on our muscles and joints. This leads to muscle strains. In fact, repeated strain from an improper technique or form can lead to long-lasting damage.
If you have any questions about muscle strains and therapy treatment, give us a call at 570-208-2787 or email email@example.com.