How to avoid muscle injuries
Let’s face it; muscle injuries are weird. You’re normally going about your day, playing basketball or working out, and then bam, suddenly, you feel a sharp pain. The pain you’re feeling is due to a strained or pulled muscle. This happens when your muscle is torn or overstretched. Although they can happen in any muscle, it’s most common in the hamstring (muscle behind the thigh), shoulder, lower back, and the neck. Mild/moderate strains can be easily cured with some home remedies; however, severe strains or tears will definitely require medical treatment.
Symptoms of muscle strain
Symptoms of muscle strain include soreness, sudden onset of pain, bruising, discoloration, muscle spasms, weakness, stiffness, limited movement range, and a knotted up feeling. When it comes to a mild strain, your muscle will feel slightly stiff but still flexible enough to use. A severe muscle strain will result in pain and limited movement. Mild strains usually go away in a few weeks. Severe strains can take months to heal.
What causes muscle strains?
Muscle strains can occur because of several reasons. When muscle tear occurs suddenly and unexpectedly, it’s called an acute muscle strain. They can occur because of poor flexibility and conditioning, fatigue and overextension, and not warming up properly before exercise. Muscle strains can occur even in the absence of rigorous exercise or high-intensity workouts. An acute strain can happen simply from jumping, running, lifting something heavy, throwing something, or slipping. Acute muscle strains are more common in cold weather as muscles are stiffer at lower temperatures.
Chronic muscle strain results from repetitive movement. This can be due to sports like baseball, tennis, rowing, or golf. The positioning of your back and neck in awkward positions for a prolonged period of time (like when working at a desk). Or a result of overall poor posture.
Healing muscle injury
So how do you heal your muscle injury? Let’s look at some methods.
Light therapy: is a non-invasive, natural drug-free therapy where concentrated wavelengths of red or near-infrared light penetrate the skin to enter the cells. Light therapy is an excellent method for healing muscle strains. The light that enters the cells stimulates the mitochondria, making the cells more energetic. As a result, oxidative stress is reduced, and more usable energy is present for healing. This helps to trigger the growth and repair of new cells and tissues. Light therapy makes the natural repair process of cells and tissues faster. Most professional athletes use light therapy.
Ice: Applying ice directly after a muscle injury will reduce swelling. Make sure to use an ice pack or wrap the ice with a cloth. Never apply ice directly to the skin. Apply ice for around 20 minutes. Repeat every hour on the first day and every four hours for the next several days.
Rest and compression: Don’t move your muscles for a while after injury, especially if it’s painful. Rest for two days before slowly using your muscles (make sure not to overdo it). Too much rest can be bad, as it’ll prolong the healing process. It’s also recommended to wrap the affected area with a bandage until swelling decreases. Don’t wrap too tightly, or else blood circulation will be reduced. Also, if possible, keep the injured area in an elevated position (above the level of the heart).
Minimizing muscle injury
There are several things you can do to minimize the possibility of a muscle strain.
Eccentric strength exercise: Performing eccentric strength exercise (e.g., Nordic Hamstring Curls) can help prevent muscle injury. Eccentric strength exercise trains muscles to maintain tension and strength while they’re lengthening. This prevents muscle tears, which can occur when muscles suddenly elongate and need to absorb high amounts of force.
Keeping vitamin D levels in check: Vitamin D deficiency is pretty common (77% of Americans are vitamin D deficient). Low levels of vitamin D can put you at risk of muscle strain. Vitamin D is responsible for protein synthesis and electrolyte balance in the muscles. Insufficient electrolyte balance can cause premature fatigue and injury, while improper protein synthesis inhibits muscle recovery.
Warm-up without excessive stretching: For some reason, there’s a popular myth that over-stretching before exercising will significantly reduce the chances of muscle strain. It’s incorrect. Repetitive aggressive stretching damages muscles and decreases performance. Muscles need to be ready for intense activity before an intense workout or a sports session, not get longer. Sudden exertion of strength or force can shock a muscle, making muscles be at higher risk of tear. A quick dynamic workout is often the best solution.
Muscle injury is a severe issue that can quickly turn if not taken care of at the right time. It should be reasonably easy to assess if you have a muscle tear/strain or not as the symptoms are very easy to spot. Properly following healing procedures and taking precautions will ensure your life stays strain-free.