As a physiotherapist, I often see patients who have sustained muscle injuries. These injuries can range from mild strains to more severe tears, and can cause significant pain and impair mobility. In this blog post, I will discuss the different types of muscle injuries, their symptoms, and treatment options, as well as provide some guidance on prevention and when to seek out online physiotherapy.
Types of Muscle Injury
We can classify muscle injuries into three major categories: strains, contusions, and tears.
Strains are the most common type of muscle injury. They occur when the muscle is stretched beyond its normal limits, causing small tears in the muscle fibers. Strains can range in severity from mild to severe, and are usually caused by overuse or improper use of the muscle.
Contusions, also known as bruises, occur when a muscle is struck by a hard object, causing bleeding and swelling. Contusions can range in severity from mild to severe, depending on the amount of damage to the muscle.
Tears are the most severe type of muscle injury and occur when the muscle is completely ruptured. Tears can be either partial or complete, and can be caused by a sudden, forceful movement or impact.
Symptoms of Muscle Injury
The symptoms of a muscle injury can vary depending on the type and severity of the injury. Some common symptoms include:
- Pain: Pain is the most common symptom of a muscle injury, and can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the injury. The pain may be sharp and acute, or dull and aching, and may be worse when the muscle is used.
- Swelling: Swelling is another common symptom of muscle injury and occurs when fluid builds up in the injured area. Swelling can cause the muscle to feel tight and sore, and can make it difficult to move the affected limb.
- Bruising: Bruising, or discoloration of the skin, can occur with both contusions and strains. Bruising is caused by bleeding under the skin, and can range in color from red to purple to black.
- Weakness: Weakness is another common symptom of muscle injury, and can make it difficult to move the affected limb. The weakness may be mild at first, but can worsen over time if the injury is not properly treated.
- Loss of function: In severe cases, a muscle injury can cause a loss of function in the affected limb. This can make it difficult or impossible to move the limb, and can greatly impair mobility.
The treatment of a muscle injury will depend on the type and severity of the injury. Some common treatment options include:
- Rest: Rest is an important part of the recovery process and is essential for allowing the injured muscle to heal. It is important to avoid activities that put strain on the injured muscle, and to give the muscle time to rest and recover.
- Ice: Applying ice to the injured area can help to reduce swelling and pain. Ice should be applied for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, for the first 48-72 hours after the injury.
- Compression: Compressing the injured area with an elastic bandage can help to reduce swelling and support the injured muscle. The bandage should be snug, but not tight, and should be worn for the first 48-72 hours after the injury.
- Elevation: Elevating the injured limb can help to reduce swelling by allowing gravity to drain the excess fluid away from the injured area. The limb should be elevated above the level of the heart whenever possible, especially during the first 48-72 hours after the injury.
- Pain medication: Over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can be helpful in managing pain from a muscle injury. It is important to follow the instructions on the medication label, and to avoid exceeding the recommended dose.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy can be an important part of the recovery process for muscle injuries. A physiotherapist can provide exercises and stretches that can help to improve flexibility and strength in the injured muscle, and can help to prevent future injuries.
There are several steps that you can take to help prevent muscle injuries:
- Warm up before exercise: It is important to warm up before engaging in any physical activity. This can help to increase blood flow to the muscles, and can make them more flexible and less prone to injury.
- Stretch after exercise: Stretching after exercise can help to improve flexibility and range of motion in the muscles, and can help to prevent injuries.
- Use proper technique: Using proper technique when engaging in physical activity is essential for preventing muscle injuries. This means using the correct form when lifting weights, avoiding sudden, jerky movements, and listening to your body’s warning signs.
- Wear appropriate clothing and equipment: Wearing appropriate clothing and equipment can help to prevent muscle injuries. This means wearing shoes that provide adequate support, and using protective gear, such as knee pads or elbow pads, when necessary.
- Avoid overuse: Overuse is a common cause of muscle injuries, and can be avoided by taking regular breaks, varying your activities, and listening to your body’s warning signs.
When to Consult a Physiotherapist
If you have sustained a muscle injury, it is important to seek out physiotherapy as soon as possible. A physiotherapist can provide guidance on how to manage your injury, and can help to develop a personalized treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs.
In general, it is a good idea to seek out online physiotherapy if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent pain or discomfort in the injured area
- Swelling or bruising that does not improve within a few days
- Weakness or loss of function in the affected limb
- Difficulty performing everyday activities, such as walking or climbing stairs
- Inability to move the affected limb, or severe pain when trying to move it
Online physiotherapy can be especially beneficial for people who have sustained a muscle injury, as it allows them to receive treatment from the comfort of their own home. This can be particularly helpful for individuals who may have difficulty travelling to a clinic, or who may have mobility issues. By seeking out online physiotherapy at the first sign of a muscle injury, you can help to prevent the injury from becoming worse, and can get back to your normal activities as soon as possible.
Through KBPhysio, we see clients virtually throughout British Columbia for their physiotherapy needs. Together, we’ll build a plan that aims to treat your existing injuries and then work on how to avoid further pain so allow you to take part in life and recreational activities that are most enjoyable to you. We offer free consultations over phone and zoom.
- Muscle Strains https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-strains/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20450520
- Muscle Strains: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & FAQs https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22336-muscle-strains
- Sprains, Strains and Other Soft-Tissue Injuries https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/sprains-strains-and-other-soft-tissue-injuries/
- Muscle injuries: biology and treatment https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15851777/
- Early Injury Treatment https://physioworks.com.au/physiotherapy-treatment/immediate-injury-treatment/