Muscle Strains? What should I do next?

“I think I just tore my hamstring!?” If you are anything like me, you utter this sentence quite regularly. Below, we explore the factors that need to be considered when dealing with muscle strains.

The importance of resting an injury and not rushing back to play sports is paramount. As an Osteopath, we want to provide the best information and treatment plans to avoid injuries/speed up recovery time and give people participating in sport the information they need, so they can spend more time on the field rather than off it.
This following advice can be applied to any muscle, here is a summary of the important steps to take immediately following an injury…

M.I.C.E > R.I.C.E for muscle strains

  • Mobilise – If able, try to weight bear on the injured leg in a controlled manner. This is especially in the first few hours following an injury, avoiding any sudden movements or overstretching. This will aid muscle fibre regeneration and reduce scar tissue forming.
  • Ice – Apply cold to the affected area for the first 48 hours following injury. Do so for 10-15 minutes up to every hour if you can. If using ice such as frozen peas, wrap them in a tea towel to prevent burning the skin. The results in significantly less tissue bleeding caused by the injury and will help reduce the pain.
  • Compression and Elevation – A compression bandage and elevating the leg will result in less swelling. Too much swelling can cause additional pain.

Should You Stretch The Injured Muscle?

No! The injury has occurred due to the muscle fibres being overstretched and torn. Imaging shows that a tear in a muscle takes around 7-10 days to ‘bridge the gap’ created by the tear. The muscle should not be stretched before this takes place. Instead of stretching in the early phases of healing, maintain movements within a pain free range to avoid further damage to the injured site.

What If You Don’t Allow Enough Time To Rest/Repair?

Various factors can influence the rate of repair, including age, diet and obviously the severity of the injury. It is vital that sufficient time is given for the muscle strain to repair. If you don’t, you could be looking at a very annoying, long-term repetitive injury. Inflammation is a key component of repair. It can last between 2 days to several weeks, again depending on the severity of the injury. However, if not given the chance to repair this inflammation can become chronic. This is when scar tissue forms. Instead of healthy, elastic muscle fibres being regenerated, a rigid, weaker tissue is formed which is very difficult to break down and predisposes future muscle strains.

A rehabilitation programme should always be tailored to you and your activity. If you are struggling with a muscle strain/repetitive injury get in touch with us to see an Osteopath about muscle strain.

Dr Chris Devenish (Osteopath)

Chris is a registered osteopath and a level 1 accredited strength and conditioning coach. He is able to provide specific exercise prescription and develop programs to rehabilitate and prevent injuries.