About Muscle Injuries
Muscle injuries are the most common reasons for an individual to miss play or work. Some of the common types of muscle injuries are muscle tear or pull, spasm, or cramping. An individual does not need to be a professional athlete to get a muscle injury. A normal person working in an office or doing normal workouts in the gym may also incur a muscle injury.
Now coming to the mechanism of a muscle injury, the muscles in the body are attached to the bones through tendons. It is the muscle which provides the power or force required for movement. When doing activities which require excessive amount of force such as when lifting weights or when running or sprinting, the force exerted by the muscle is so excessive that it causes the muscle tissues to tear. This tear may be partial or complete. This tearing of the muscle tissues is what results in a muscle injury. The muscles which are most susceptible to muscle injuries are the hamstrings, the quadriceps, the rotator cuff muscles, the calf muscles, and the hip adductor muscles.
Some of the factors that can predispose an individual to muscle injuries are age, history of a previous muscle injury, lack of flexibility, muscle weakness, and muscle fatigue. There may be a number of reasons for the muscles to become weak or where the muscles become less flexible resulting in muscle injuries like muscle spasms, muscle pull, or muscle cramps. In this article, we will give a brief overview of the causes and treatment of these three conditions which come under Muscle Injuries.
Types of Muscle Injuries & its Causes, Treatments
The most common type of muscle injury is muscle spasm and this is caused due to overuse of a muscle such that the muscle runs out of energy and starts to spasm or contract resulting in pain and reduced motion. Muscle spasms may occur in a part of the muscle or the whole muscle. Heat plays a crucial role in causing muscle spasms. If an individual has been training for his or her sporting event or working out in the gym in a hot environment is more predisposed to muscle spasms.
Normal people who work in construction where they have to lift heavy objects on a hot day are also at risk for muscle spasms. Routine daily activities like shoveling snow or mowing grass can cause muscle spasms of the neck, shoulder, and back muscles.
When it comes to treatment of muscle spasms, the most effective way to treat this type of muscle injury is to use ice for 15 to 20 minutes two to three times a day until there is pain relief and the inflammation calms down. This can also be alternated with heat as well, but it should be made sure that both ice and heat should not be applied to the affected area simultaneously.
Apart from this, NSAIDs in the form of Tylenol or ibuprofen are also quite effective in treating muscle spasms. Additionally, muscle relaxants can also be used to allow the injured muscle to heal. Cortisone injections are also quite helpful in treating muscle spasms but they have a potential to increase blood sugars so in case if an individual is a diabetic then a clearance need to be taken with the primary care physician before embarking on this form of treatment. Apart from this, physical and chiropractic therapy is also quite useful in treating muscle spasms.
Muscle Pull or Muscle Strain
Muscle pull or muscle strain is yet another common type of muscle injury, which occurs when the muscle of a body gets pulled or torn due to excessive force applied on the muscle which it is not able to bear.1 This usually occurs because of a sudden force like when lifting heavy objects repetitively such as in people who work in construction. Other than this, some of the other causes of a Muscle Pull or Strain are:
- Doing any heavy physical activity without adequately warming up.
- Poor flexibility of muscles.
- Poor conditioning of the muscles.
- Overexertion or repetitive stress injury.
Muscle Pull or Muscle Strains can be acute or chronic. The causes of Acute Muscle Pull or Strain are:
- Slip and fall accident.
- Jumping the wrong way.
- Running more than the muscles can handle.
- Throwing activity.
- Heavy lifting, especially from an awkward position.
Acute Muscle Pull or Strain is more seen in the colder weather as the muscles become stiff in colder temperatures.
Some of the causes of Chronic Muscle Pull or Strain are:
- Participating in sporting events like tennis, golf, or baseball.
- Holding the back or neck in an awkward position for prolonged periods of time such as when working in front of a computer.
- Having a poor posture also tends to cause Muscle Pull or Strain.
Coming to the treatments of this type of muscle injury, these can be treated easily following the RICE protocol. The RICE protocol stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It is advisable to not do activities involving the pulled or strained muscle for a few days to allow the muscles to heal. It is also recommended to not rest for an extended period of time as prolonged inactivity may make a muscle weak. Applying ice to injured muscle for 15 to 20 minutes two to three times a day helps with pain and swelling.
Compression is useful in reducing the swelling caused due to Muscle Pull or Strain. One can wrap the injured muscle with a bandage until the swelling comes down. It is recommended not to wrap the injured muscle too tightly as it may affect blood circulation. It is recommended that whenever possible elevate the affected muscle, especially if the muscles affected are those of the legs like the hamstring or the calf muscle above the level of the heart for faster healing of the muscle.
Additionally, antiinflammatories like Tylenol or Advil are also quite helpful in treating this type of muscle injury. It is recommended that after treatment of the Muscle Pull or Strain to be very careful before resuming sporting or lifting activities so as not to risk injury to the muscle again.
Another common muscle injury is muscle cramps. There can be numerous causes for Muscle Cramp. Muscle overuse, dehydration, or holding a position for prolonged periods of time can cause Muscle Cramp, although the exact cause of Muscle Cramp is still unknown. Muscle Cramps in some cases are also related to certain conditions like:
Inadequate Blood Supply: In case where an individual has narrowed arteries, especially those which supply blood to the legs may result in muscle injury caused due to leg muscle cramp when the individual is active like when exercising. These sorts of cramps go away as soon as the activity is stopped.
Nerve Compression: This is yet another cause for muscle injury due to muscle cramp. Pain due to Muscle Cramp caused because of nerve compression tends to get worse with activity.2
Mineral Deficiency: If an individual has a potassium, calcium, or magnesium deficiency then it may also be a reason for Muscle Cramp. If an individual is on a diuretic it may lead to deficiency in the above mentioned minerals and cause Muscle Cramp.
The front line treatment for muscle injury caused due to cramps is to relax the muscle and this can be done by stretching, massage, and use of heat to the affected muscle. The other treatments for muscle injuries caused due to cramps are more for the underlying cause of the muscle cramp like rehydration, mineral supplementation and the like. There are also certain muscle relaxants like Flexeril, Norflex, and baclofen which have shown effectiveness in treating Muscle Cramps. Tonic water is also something which has shown to be quite helpful in treating Muscle Cramps. Recently, the use of Botox injections has been quite successful in treating Muscle Cramps.