It feels like pulled muscle or muscle catch? Are you constantly pulling muscles? Well a strained muscle ought to be a simple injury to overcome. This, however, is not always the case. Here we will discuss common muscle strains and how best to treat, care and rehabilitate them. However if you think that you tore a muscle or tendon then you should seek immediate medical assistance. Tears in a muscle can be a serious condition and may require surgery. Look for signs of bleeding under the skin which can signal a ruptured muscle rather than just slight muscular ligamentous strain or sprains.
The Thigh Strain
An overstrained thigh is the name given to any tear of the quadriceps muscle at the front of the upper leg. This muscle is commonly injured because it controls movement at two joints (the hip and the knee) as well as being a major player in the production of power for many sporting and athletic activities.
The most commonly strained muscle of this group is called RECTUS FEMORIS. It is a fairly thin strap like muscle and is often injured by over stretching combined with exertion of the muscle to produce hip flexion with knee extension. This movement is bending of the hip with a knee straightening action as in kicking or sprinting.
A strained muscle such as this is characterized by a sharp pain at the site of injury and pain on attempts at moving the hip backwards or lifting the leg forwards against gravity. Walking can be painful in the first few days after injury.
The Hamstring Strain
So where do we start with this beauty of a strained muscle? Probably the most common soft tissue sporting injury there is. There are not many of us interested in sport who have not witnessed the sudden agony and attempted braking and protective action of a sprinter suffering a breakdown in a hamstring.
The hamstring muscle is comprised of three individual muscles that control movement again over the hip and the knee. They are heavily involved in propulsion, thrust and control in athletic movements. Injury will occur when the muscle is asked to contract or shorten too aggressively or when it is in its position of vulnerability i.e. stretched with the hip flexed or bent and the knee extended or straight.
The hamstring muscle has braking role in movement of the knee during running. When you run, your quadriceps at the front of your thigh straighten your knee to get stride length. So that this movement is controlled and your knee does not just ‘snap’ into the straight position the hamstrings contract whilst they are lengthening and the knee is straightening, in order to control the movement of knee extension.
During this activity, known as ECCENTRIC MUSCLE WORK the hamstrings are vulnerable to injury because they are contracting whilst undergoing a stretch or lengthening process. Occasionally the muscle is unable to control the movement and it tears. Result: immediate pain and bleeding in the strained muscle.
The tear can be mild, moderate or severe with anything from a few stretched muscle fibres to a full blown rupture of the muscle. Obviously the amount of bleeding and swelling will vary as will the degree of function loss according to the damage.
The affect on the ability to walk and do normal every day activities with a damaged hamstring is remarkable. The time scale for recovery from a strained muscle of this type can vary from three to twelve weeks, with re-occurrences on attempted return to activity being very common. This is often due to poor advice and/or incomplete rehabilitation.
The Groin Strain
Groin strains need careful attention. They are not as common as the other muscle injuries of the thigh but have the potential to be equally if not more troublesome in certain cases.
Basically there are three muscles that make up THE ADDUCTOR MUSCLE group on the inside of the thigh. They run from the front of the pelvis to the inside of the thigh above the knee. They pull the leg inwards towards the middle and are heavily involved in sporting activities where turning and changes of direction are required. The muscles also play a vital role in controlling and stabilising the hip joint.
They tend to get injured in either the fleshy belly of the muscle or at the origin of the muscle where it arises from the pubis bone of the pelvis. A running or lifting action is commonly involved in the injury mechanism.
Injuries of the muscle belly tend to be easier to resolve. This in my opinion is due to the better blood supply here compared to that of THE TENO-PERIOSTEAL JUNCTION. This is the medical name for point at which the muscle arises from the pubis bone of the pelvis.
Inflammation at the origin of the wretched muscle can be challenging to treat, especially if the condition becomes long standing or chronic. Severe breakdown of this part of the groin muscle has ended the careers of more than one professional sportsperson.
Regarding this particular injury, What’s best are deep frictions if the condition has become chronic and difficult to resolve.
The Calf Strain
Calf strains are probably not as common as hamstring injuries. They are though equally as frustrating for the sufferer. The mechanism of injury here is normally an over exertion of the muscle. It can involve walking or running uphill or jumping and landing. Non sporting causes are frequently helping push someone’s car off the road if it has broken down.
There is usually a sharp pain in the muscle at the time of injury. They can be exquisitely tender to touch and cause a marked limp due to the loss of propulsion of the body weight from the heel to the toe. This strained muscle injury will normally involve either a tear of the medial or lateral head of the gastrocnemius muscle. These are the fleshy bits just below the knee at the back of the leg. The medial one, nearer the inner aspect, is more commonly torn than its lateral counterpart.
The calf muscle group also has a deeper component called SOLEUS. This particular muscle lies underneath the larger, bulkier gastrocnemius muscle. It is less involved in power production and is therefore less commonly injured. My reason for mentioning it here is that a strain of this muscle can be overlooked. Its rehabilitation will need a different approach and unless this is tweaked there can be persistent problems.
Treatment of Muscle Injuries
What does medicine say will fix a pulled muscle? Massage? The treatment of all strained muscles have familiar veins running through them. A definitive diagnosis helps, followed by immediate R.I.C.E. The fastest healing process will keep concurrent with a carefully guided rehabilitation program to restore maximum function. It is here that there are specific differences for each injury involving good stretching, strengthening and functional pattern regimes. In a future article we’ll discuss lat strain recovery and pinched back muscles.