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Muscle Strain prevention by Mary Tan

We have all heard of musculoskeletal injuries and how they occur. The feeling of going through the pain is definitely not something everyone wants to experience, however. Muscle strains occur when a particular muscle or muscle group is overstretched or even torn, leading to injury and inflammation. The severity of the pain all depends on the degree of the strain as well. There are three degrees that will be described, so let’s go.

            A first-degree muscle strain is a very mild strain with <5% of muscle fibers injured. Although painful, there is little swelling with little to no loss of strength in the muscle. These strains usually take 2-3 weeks to heal with proper rest and treatment.

            A second-degree muscle strain is a moderate strain with more visible bruising and swelling and a loss of strength in the muscle. Range of motion is affected. This type of strain may take 8-10 weeks to heal following the injury.

            A third-degree muscle strain is a severe strain with discoloration and swelling in the skin and a complete loss of muscular strength and function as the muscle is completely torn in two. Most of the time, surgery and physical therapy are required to repair the damaged tissue and restore lost function. Those with severe muscle strains usually hear and feel a “popping” sensation, as their muscles are being pulled apart. Severe strains may take anywhere from 12 weeks to several months to be completely healed before return to normal activities.

            Muscle strains are overall just a painful experience. To prevent strains, be sure to know your own limits and strengths. Before starting any exercise, always always ALWAYS properly warm up to prepare the muscle for more strenuous activity and avoid overworking a particular muscle group. Muscle strains can be felt right away in an instant the moment you finish exercising so feeling “sore” the next day after a workout does not mean that you have strained a muscle. However, if there every comes a time where you have injured yourself, use the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Stop exercising immediately and place ice for 10 minutes on the muscle to temporarily minimize inflammation. Unless there is an open wound, compression is not required. Elevate the muscle group to reduce swelling. Depending on the severity of the strain, spend no more than 48 hours resting. Exercise is recommended to increase blood flow to the muscle for better healing and also helps to keep the muscle flexible and healthy (DON’T overwork yourself). Of course, lightly stretch the injured muscle, since injuring it can cause reduced flexibility due to the alignment of scar tissue. 

            Muscle injuries can take you out of the season for many months, so stay safe while being active! 

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