Muscle Injury
 
There are around 650 muscles in the body that work to keep our limbs and torso moving when we need it to move, or keep it stable when stability is required.  If you suffer from any sort of injury to these muscles it can seriously hinder your ability to get up and go, whether that be for sport or just for being active in your everyday life.  A muscle injury that isn’t well taken care of can recur and immobilize you for months, so proper early diagnosis and rehabilitation is critical. 

Our therapists will provide you with information that will allow you to understand why and how muscle injuries happen, prevent them from occurring, but to also manage them if they do occur. After all, with over 600 muscles, the chance of injuring one of them at some point in life is high.  
Muscles make up over half of the weight of a human body and they are required to make even the smallest of movements such as nodding your head or tapping your toe. 
 
If too much stretch is put through one of your muscles you may end up with a painful muscle strain.  If the similar type of injury occurred to one of the ligaments in your body, it is termed a sprain.
What parts of the body are involved?

Muscles are composed of many fibers bundled together; the bigger, more frequently used muscles have more fibers than the smaller, lesser-used ones. Among the muscles are voluntary and involuntary muscles. Voluntary, or striated muscles, are those that we move by choice (for example, the muscles in your arms and legs). Involuntary muscles, or smooth muscles, are the ones that move on their own (for example, the muscles that control your diaphragm and help you breathe). The muscles in your heart are called involuntary cardiac muscles.Voluntary muscles are attached to bones by tendons, a sinewy type of tissue.  The area where the muscle attaches to the tendon is called the musculotendinous junction. 
What causes a muscle strain?

A muscle strain, or a pulled muscle occurs when a muscle in your body is overstretched or overworked.  Even if the injury from overstretching or overworking occurs more to the attaching tendon it can also be classified under the term muscle strain. A muscle strain can occur in any of your voluntary muscles (or tendons which attach to the muscle), but they are most common in the low back, the calves, the front and back of the thighs, the pectoral muscles, and the muscles of the neck and the shoulder. Muscle strains occur more often in muscles that cross two joints (such as the thigh or calf muscles) and often occur when the muscles are working eccentrically (working while under a stretch).  Most often a strain occurs at the musculotendinous junction but can occur anywhere along the muscle.

A muscle strain can occur due to a one-time overstretching or overworking of a muscle (acute injury) or can occur from repetitive use of a muscle over time (overuse injury).

What does a muscle strain feel like?

Several symptoms can indicate that you have incurred a muscle strain but the symptoms you feel will depend on the grade of strain you have incurred:

  • sudden onset of pain, or pain/soreness that comes on the next day related to a specific event

  • pain on touching the injured area

  • mild, moderate, or severely limited range of movement, or an extreme abnormal range of motion

  • decreased strength in the injured muscle

  • bruising or discoloration in the area or at a distal location to the strain

  • swelling

  • a "knotted up" feeling

  • a local divot or bump in the affected area due to the torn muscle fibers

  • muscle spasm in the area

  • stiffness in the area

Diagnosis 

How do health care professionals diagnose the problem?

Your Physical Therapist at Physical Therapy Solutions will ask a number of questions to determine if you have strained your muscle and to determine how severe the damage is.  They will want to know exactly when you injured yourself and if you injured the muscle from one specific event or if a repetitive injury caused your pain. They will want to know what you felt immediately after the injury and whether or not you feel that you have lost any strength or range of motion. Your therapist will also want to know if there has been any swelling or bruising around the area or anywhere down one of your limbs.  They will also want to know what sort of things are aggravating your pain or if you have been able to do anything to make your pain feel better.  They will inquire about any medications you are taking and whether or not you have ever injured this muscle in the past.

After a thorough history your Physical Therapist will do a physical examination. 

The initial aim of treatment for acute strains at Physical Therapy Solutions Inc is to manage the inflammation and pain in the area.  The initial aim of treatment for acute muscle strains at Physical Therapy Solutions Inc is to decrease the pain as well as any secondary inflammation in the area.  Some initial inflammation is actually required to start the healing process, but a large inflammatory response can also lead to secondary inflammation and secondary cell injury, which affects tissues that were not directly related to the initial insult.  Ice and compression can greatly assist in decreasing this detrimental secondary tissue injury.  

Conclusion

Muscle strains involve a tear to the fibers of a muscle and vary in healing time depending on how severe the strain is. If you experience a muscle strain, let the expert Physical Therapists at Physical Therapy Solutions Inc assist you in determining the severity of your strain as well as help get you back to your everyday activity or sport by guiding you through the appropriate rehabilitation program.