Strain happens. Unfortunately, sometimes people (especially athletes and go-getters) don’t have the most proactive response to strains. Know someone like this? Here’s a few ideas that can help.
When a strain first happens, relative rest is really important. One challenge is that you can’t always tell if a muscle or tissue is strained. We suggest asking for help. In the early stages of treating a strained muscle, you should:
- rest the muscle: this helps the small muscle fibres that have been damaged to recover and heal
- avoid stretching: don’t stretch in the early stages
- use heat or ice: use in short periods for pain management
- avoid painful activities: for example, avoid the activity that caused the injury (this might seem obvious, but you would be surprised)
- ask for help: after a comprehensive assessment we will guide you by appropriately increasing your activities in order to avoid re-injury; we may also use treatments such as shockwave therapy or manual therapy to reduce healing time.
Sometimes, protection is necessary early on. The challenge of having an injury is that we still need to use the injured area with everyday life. This sometimes doesn’t allow our injury to heal so that’s when we use splinting or braces. Hand strains, for instance, can take a long time to heal since it is hard to rest this area of the body. Sometimes taping can help. Or bracing.
We can tape or brace the strained area so that you can keep moving while your body heals. We can also advise you when you can let go of the protection.
Movement to restore normal function
Strained structures need to be strengthened while balance and dexterity are improved. That means that early and limited (aka SAFE) movement is extremely important. As you heal, practice skills as simple as holding chopsticks or changing direction quickly on a soccer field. Small and simple changes to your movements, combined with adequate muscle strength, can prevent muscle strains in the long run. We can educate you on how to prevent re-injury and guide you along the path back to your active lifestyle.
The challenge is that not all strains are equal. The local area of a muscle strain is painful, swollen, red and bruised and the muscle may be weak and painful to use. Treatments for strains are individualized, based on the mechanism of injury, the degree of strain, the specific muscle at fault and the functional goals of the individual. Let us help you differentiate between a mild muscle strain that can be treated conservatively, versus a severe strain, such as a complete tear, that may require further medical attention.
We can help you correct any biomechanical issues and create an individualized exercise plan, including stretching and strengthening at the appropriate time intervals.