Muscle strain is an injury to a tender muscle—the fibrous tissues that link the muscles to bones. Minor injuries only stretch the muscle or become tender, but severe injuries give complete tears to the tissues. Strain can appear in any muscle but commonly occurs in the thighs’ lower back, neck, shoulder, and back thigh muscles, widely called pulled muscles. The difference between a strain and a sprain is that the strain includes an injury to the muscles that attach the muscles to a bone, while sprain injuries are the band of tissues that link the two bones together. First aid requires rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Mild strain can be easily treated at home, while severe strain sometimes requires surgery.
Symptoms of muscle strain
Signs and symptoms of muscle strain can vary according to the severity of the injury and may include the following;
- Limited motion
- Muscles spasms
- Muscles weakness
- A Knotted-up feeling
- Inability to use muscles
An acute muscle strain can result from;
- Lift something heavy
- Throw something
A chronic muscle strain is due to;
- Repetitive injuries
- Sports like tennis, golf, rowing, or baseball
- Holding your back or neck for an extended period in an awkward position
- Poor posture
When to see the doctor
Mild muscle strain can be treated/cured at home, but severe muscle strain or injuries need medical attention. Seek medical attention if the following happens;
- The pain doesn’t leave after a week
- The injured area becomes senseless
- Bleeding from injury
- You can’t move or walk
In the physical exam, the doctor will check the swelling and points of tenderness. The location and severity of pain can determine the nature and extent of the damage. The doctor may see the defective area of injury in severe injuries, where the muscles and tenders have been fully ruptured. Ultrasound can help in distinguishing the different types of tissue injuries.
X-rays and MRIs can determine the severity of the injury.
Sports like soccer, football, hockey, boxing, and wrestling can increase the risk of muscle strain. Muscle strain risk factors are;
- Muscle tightness
- Muscle imbalance
- Poor conditioning
- Muscle fatigue
- Old age or adolescence
Certain parts of the body are more sensitive to strain during some sports, Including;
Gymnastics or golf are gripping sports that can increase the risk of muscle strain in the hands.
2. Legs and ankles
Quick start jumping, such as basketball and hurdling, can tough the tendons in the ankles.
Elbow strain can be caused by throwing sports and racquet sports.
- Regular stretching
- Do strengthening exercises
- Stay physical active
- Regular conditioning
- Do not sit long in one position
- Maintain good posture while sitting and standing
- Lift objects carefully
- Take precautions
- Wear shoes that fit properly
- Start a warm-up routine
Try ice, rest, compression, and elevation for first aid or self-care for muscle strain.
Avoid physical activities that cause pain, swelling, or discomfort. But don’t avoid all physical activities.
Immediate help is to ice the area. Use an ice pack or cold water for 10 to 15 minutes and repeat this every 2-3 hours after waking up from injury. Don’t use ice directly on the skin; use an ice pack or wrap ice in a towel.
Compress the area of swelling with an elastic band to reduce swelling. Don’t wrap it too tightly because it hinders/stops circulation. Start wrapping from the end farthest of the heart. If you feel pain, then lose the wrap.
Elevate the area of injury above the heart at night, allowing gravity to lower swelling. Doctors recommend avoiding painkillers during the first 48 hours of muscle strain, which can increase the risk of bleeding, such as aspirin, naproxen, sodium, and ibuprofen. Acetaminophen can be helpful during this period in reducing pain. Apply heat to the muscles after three days; this will improve blood circulation, which increases the healing process. Slowly increase physical activity. Start stretching, which will reduce stiffness and weakness of muscles. Make some effort to stay in shape. A physical therapist can also minimize injured joint or limb strength and stability. Treatment requires anti-inflammatory medications, therapy, and pain relievers to reduce swelling and pain. Therapy restores movement.
Foods that heal muscle strain
The proper diet increases the healing process and helps to feel better sooner. Several foods are suitable for the recovery of muscle strain.
1. Protein-rich foods
Protein is a nutrient that strengthens your body’s muscle tissues. When you suffer from muscle strain, inevitably, loss of mass occurs. Eating the proper amount of protein can lower the risk of losing the amount of muscle mass. Protein intake improves the body’s retraining and can help improve muscle development. Protein-rich foods are;
2. Vitamin-C rich fruits and vegetables
Vitamin C can help you improve inflammation, improve motion, and restore the body. Vitamin C produces collagen, enhancing the body’s ability to maintain/repair bones, tendons, and muscles. Vitamin C rich foods are;
- Bell pepper
3. Omega-3 fatty acids
Muscle strains can cause a lot of inflammation in the affected area. Omega-3 fatty acids can help in controlling inflammation. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid-rich foods are;
- Chia seeds
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
- Corn oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Soybean oil
4. Zinc-rich foods
Zinc is also essential for the healing of wounded tissues. While taking a large amount of zinc can cause copper deficiency. Zinc-rich foods are;
- Red meat
- Fortified cereals
5. Vitamin D/Calcium
Calcium and vitamin D are essential in healing the bones and help the brain send nerves and contract the muscles correctly. Vitamin D increases the body’s ability to absorb and process calcium for recovery. Vitamin D is a natural pain manager. Calcium-rich foods;
- Dairy products
- Canned salmon
- Canned baked beans
- Calcium-Fortified foods
- Dark green leafy vegetables
6. Fiber-rich foods
Fiber-rich foods can fill you up for a longer duration and prevent overeating. During recovery, orthopedics recommends keeping your injured parts immobile, and fiber-rich foods contain plenty of nutrients. Fiber-rich foods are;
- Dried fruits
- Psyllium husk