Leg Muscle Tear or Injury
A Leg Muscle Tear or Injury is said to occur whenever the leg muscle gets over-stretched or overused beyond its actual capacity. Leg Muscle Tear or Injury can also be called as Leg Muscle Strain. Leg Muscle Tear or Injury normally occurs when the muscles are overused resulting in muscle fatiguing or improper use of the muscles. The most common leg muscle that is prone to tear or injury is the hamstring muscles. The hamstring muscles are located on the back of the thigh and are frequently used when performing a sporting activity like sprinting, running, football, or baseball. This leads to repetitive stretching of the hamstring muscles which may ultimately result in Leg Muscle Tear or Injury.
Leg muscle tear or injury can result in significant pain and make it difficult for an individual to ambulate normally. The individual will have restricted range of motion of the affected leg. Leg muscle tear or injury can be mild to severe. Mild cases of leg muscle tear or injury can be treated with rest and activity modifications alone whereas severe forms of leg muscle tear or injury needs to be treated more aggressively with rehab and physical therapy. The recovery time for severe leg muscle tear or injury is also more than mild forms of leg muscle tear or injury.
What Causes Leg Muscle Tear or Injury?
Leg Muscle Tear or Injury is basically of two types of which one is acute and the other is chronic.
An acute leg muscle tear or injury occurs as a result of sudden movement or pivoting such as when playing football and suddenly moving from one direction to the other. A slip and fall accident where the leg may get hyperextended may also result in an acute leg muscle tear or injury.
Some of the Common Causes of Acute Leg Muscle Tear or Injury are:
- Not warming up properly before running or sprinting.
- Poor muscle flexibility
- Deconditioning such as when starting to return to sporting activity after a hiatus which can be due to any other injury or illness
- Overexertion of the leg muscles
- Slip and fall resulting in hyperextension of the leg muscles.
- Jumping and falling might also result in an Acute Leg Muscle Tear or Injury.
Acute Leg Muscle Tear or Injury is most commonly seen in the winter months as the muscles are already quite stiff due to the weather.
Chronic Leg Muscle Tear or Injury Can be Caused Due to:
- Sporting activities like football, running, sprinting and running.
- Standing for prolonged periods of time is yet another cause for chronic leg muscle tear or injury. People working as greeters and other occupations which require prolonged periods of standing are predisposed to chronic leg muscle tear or injury.
What are the Symptoms of Leg Muscle Tear or Injury?
Some of the Symptoms of Leg Muscle Tear or Injury:
- Sudden onset of severe pain in the leg or thighs
- Soreness at the site of the injury
- Restricted range of motion of the legs
- Discoloration of the skin at the site of the injury
- Swelling at the site of the injury
- Leg muscle spasms
- Leg muscle stiffness
- Leg muscle weakness.
How is Leg Muscle Tear or Injury Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose leg muscle tear or injury, the physician will first take a detailed history of the patient to inquire as to where and how the injury occurred. The next step towards diagnosis of leg muscle tear or injury is a detailed physical examination where the physician will inspect the affected area first. He or she will then try to perform a range of motion test to see whether the patient is able to move the legs and if so to what extent. This will give the physician an idea as to whether the patient is dealing with a partial or incomplete or a full leg muscle tear or injury. Radiographic studies in the form of an MRI or CT scan will also help in ascertaining a diagnosis of a strained leg muscle and formulating a treatment plan best suited for the patient.
How is Leg Muscle Tear or Injury Treated?
Almost all cases of minor leg muscle tear or injury can be treated with lifestyle modifications and using NSAIDs in the form of Tylenol or ibuprofen. Following the RICE protocol is very effective in treating leg muscle tear or injury. Avoiding any activity which may aggravate the strained leg muscles need to be avoided. Using ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes two to three times a day is also a part of the RICE protocol and is quite effective. Using a compression wrap to calm down the swelling is also quite effective in treating leg muscle tear or injury.
It is important to note here that the leg muscles should not be kept inactive for a long period of time as it may lead to stiffness and weakness of the muscle which may prolong healing and return back to sporting activity. As soon as the patient feels slightly comfortable, it is important to start some slight stretches to the muscle so that the muscle remains flexible. It is recommended that once the patient has healed from Leg Muscle Tear or Injury that he or she warm up properly before embarking on any sporting activity like running or participating in sporting activities like football or rugby.
In cases of severe leg muscle tear or injury, apart from the treatments mentioned above physical therapy may also be necessary to regain muscle strength and range of motion. Surgery is rarely required for leg muscle tear or injury.
Preventing Leg Muscle Tear or Injury
A leg muscle tear or injury can be prevented if certain measures are followed diligently. Below mentioned are some steps which are quite effective in preventing leg muscle tear or injury:
- Warm up properly before running, sprinting, or going to play competitive sports like football and rugby
- An individual with a job that requires him or her to stand for a prolonged period of time needs to take frequent breaks in order to prevent leg muscle tear or injury.
- Maintain a healthy weight so as to prevent putting extra pressure on the lower extremities muscles and prevent strained leg muscles.
- It is very important to listen to your body. If an individual even feels a slight niggle while playing or performing any activity requiring use of the leg muscles then it is important to stop that activity and take rest so as to prevent leg muscle tear or injury.
What is the Recovery Time from Leg Muscle Tear or Injury?
In mild cases of Leg Muscle Tear or Injury, the muscle still remains functional and the patient is able to move around but may not be able to participate in active sports and recovery period takes around two to four weeks before the individual can gradually return back to sporting activity.
In cases of a severe Leg Muscle Tear or Injury where the muscle is completely torn then the individual will have severe restriction in range of motion and will find it difficult to use the affected muscle in any way or form. For such injuries, recovery period takes around 12-16 weeks before the individual can gradually return to sporting activities after sustaining leg muscle tear or injury.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS): “Muscle Strains in the Thigh”: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/muscle-strains-in-the-thigh