MUSCLE STRAIN OR TEAR
The term “strain” refers to the over-stretching of fibres withing a muscle. Muscle injury can vary in severity from minor or moderate strains to the more serious tear, or rupture, of part of a muscle. Strains or tears are usually caused by a sudden forceful stretching or contration (for example, an abrupt change of direction or speed), fatigue, poor running technique, over-training, and/or an inadequate warm-up programme before you set out. For runners, the muscles in the lower leg (gastrocnemius and soleus), thigh (quadriceps and hamstring groups of muscles), and buttocks (gluteus muscles) are most susceptible to this type of injury.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
There will be swelling, possible redness around the area, and reduced movement of the affected muscle. You may feel twinges of pain in the affected area during exercise, and/or when you apply pressure. If you have torn a leg muscle, pain will be severe and you won’t be able to move or stand up–you may also hear a “pop” in the muscle at the moment of injury.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?
Stop the activity. Follow the RICE procedure and seek medical attention. If you have strained your hamstrings at the back of the leg, or your calf muscles, apply RICE over a straight leg; if your quadriceps are affected, bend your leg if possible. If the pain is severe,and/or you suspect a tear, immobilize the leg and seek urgent medical help. A doctor will carry out a physical examination and perhaps an ultrasound or MRI scan. You will be advised to rest until the pain has subsided. For a minor or moderate strain, your doctor may prescribe pain relief and suggest treating the injury with ice for a few days. followed by a gentle return to exercise. You may book sessions with us, we will advise on exercises to strengthen the affected muscle(s). Left untreated, the injured muscle may become very tight, you will experience loss of mobility, and scar tissue will develop. If a strain is severe, you may need to use crutches to prevent overloading the muscle during recovery. A complete rupture of the muscle is likely to need surgery, followed by a rehabilitation programme.
WHEN CAN I RETURN TO RUNNING?
With a minor strain you can return to gentle exercise after a few days, but you must stop again if the activity causes any pain. A moderate strain may need one to two months’ recovery depending on the muscle affected. A rupture that requires surgery will need four to six months’ recovery post surgery. A moderate strain of the calf muscles may need up to three months’ rehabilitaion but a ruptured muscle will need from six to nine months recovery.
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