Muscle strains are a frequent problem for physically active people. A strained muscle occurs when a muscle is stretched or torn. This can be related to a sudden movement or overworking an unconditioned muscle – doing too much too soon.
No matter how it happens, a sore muscle can be painful, and it can be difficult to exercise or even carry out everyday activities for a few days until it heals. One way to avoid this problem is to work out appropriately and avoid sudden movements or lifting too much weight too quickly. Muscles need time to adapt. When they’re not given that time, pain, and soreness can be the result. What’s the best treatment for sore, overworked muscles?
Treatment for Muscle Strains: What’s Best?
To treat a strained muscle, it’s essential to rest. Working a sore muscle will only lead to discomfort and prolong the symptoms. If the muscle strain is only mild, continuing to work out on a piece of exercise equipment that doesn’t place stress on the muscle may be acceptable if it doesn’t make the pain worse. Otherwise, taking a few days away from exercise is best.
Stopping the Pain
What about treating the pain and tenderness? There’s some confusion about which is best for treating a muscle strain – heat or cold. According to a study published in the Emergency Medicine Journal, the cold seems to be the most effective treatment for an overused, sore muscle. Some studies using heat to treat muscle strains have shown some benefits, although not consistently. Because an overworked muscle is often inflamed, cold is a better treatment. The best way to use cold to treat muscle strains is to apply an ice pack or pack of cold vegetables to the sore muscle for ten minutes four to five times a day.
Many doctors recommend using an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to reduce the pain of a strained muscle. This provides good symptom relief but shouldn’t be used by anyone with a history of peptic ulcer or bleeding problems. They should also be used for longer than five days. If pain persists beyond that time, evaluation by a physician is needed.
Equipment To Help Muscle Strains
Muscle strains can be painful and limiting, but several types of physiotherapy equipment can help alleviate discomfort and promote healing. Here are some types of equipment that can be helpful for muscle strains:
Foam rollers: Foam rollers are cylindrical pieces of foam that can massage and stretch tight muscles. They can help relieve muscle tension and improve flexibility. By rolling the foam roller over the affected area, you can target specific muscles and apply pressure to release any knots or trigger points.
Resistance bands: Resistance bands are stretchy bands that can be used for strengthening exercises. They come in different resistance levels, allowing you to gradually increase the difficulty of your exercises as your strength improves. Resistance bands can be particularly helpful for arms, shoulders, and back strains.
Cold packs: Cold packs or ice packs can reduce swelling and inflammation in the affected area. They work by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the site. Cold packs can be beneficial during the acute phase of a muscle strain when the muscle is most inflamed.
Heating pads: Heating pads can increase blood flow to the affected area and promote the relaxation of tight muscles. They can be beneficial for neck, shoulder, and back strains.
TENS units: TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) units can be used to relieve pain and promote healing. They send electrical impulses to the affected area, which can block pain signals and stimulate the release of endorphins.
Remember, equipment is just one aspect of recovery from a muscle strain. Following a proper rehabilitation program and seeking medical attention if necessary is essential.
Reaching Full Recovery
Once the pain of a muscle strain starts to subside, gentle stretching exercises can be done to restore movement to the muscle. Training is gradually reintroduced – being careful to stop at the first sign of pain. To prevent future problems with muscle strains, take it easy on the muscles until they have a chance to adapt.