Muscle Injuries are one of the most common reasons for an individual missing work or play. Muscle Injuries are also termed as Muscle Strains or Muscle Pulls. Muscle Injuries affect athletes all around the globe every year leading to missing games, but even if you are not an athlete or a sportsman you can sustain a muscle injury while doing simple tasks at home or at work, especially if you are employed in something like a construction business or carpentry work where you may have to move and lift items on a repetitive basis.
Muscles are attached to the bones through tendons and provide the force required by the bones for movement of a particular part of the body. When doing activities that require repetitive movement like when running or when lifting or moving items repetitively there may be excessive pressure put on the muscles to such an extent that they put excessive strain on the tendons and the muscle starts to detach from the bones as the tendons start to tear due to the sheer force and pressure resulting in Muscle Injuries. The muscles in the body which are more prone to injuries are the hamstrings, the calf muscle, the quadriceps muscle and the hip adductor muscles.
What are the Risk Factors for Muscle Injuries?
Some of the factors that may predispose an individual to Muscle Injuries are:
- Age of an Individual: Muscle Injuries are more common in people who are elderly or above the age of 50 and tend to have weak muscles and tendons
- History of Previous Injury: If an individual has a history of a previous Muscle Injury then more likely than not that individual will injure that muscle again during some activity
- Muscle Stiffness: If the muscles of an individual are stiff and less flexible then that may also predispose an individual to Muscle Injuries.1
- Muscle Weakness: In cases of people who have weak muscles, Muscle Injuries are a common phenomenon.2
What are the Symptoms of Muscle Injuries?
Some of the symptoms pointing towards a Muscle Injury are:
- Sudden onset of pain at the injured site
- Soreness around the injured region
- Restricted range of motion around the injured site
- Discoloration of skin around the injured site
- Swelling around the injured site
- Sensation of a knot at the injured site
- Muscle spasms
- Stiffness of the muscles
- Muscle weakness.
In minor muscle injuries, the patient may be able to move the injured part to some degree despite the pain but if the injury is acute then there will be no motion of the injured region due to pain and swelling.
What is the Body’s Response to Muscle Injuries?
It is very interesting to note how the body responds to a Muscle Injury. As stated, Muscle Injuries occur as a result of excessive strain being put on the muscles and the tendons which attach these muscles to the bones. Once there is a strain or tear of the muscle and the muscle is detached from the tendon a muscle injury occurs. This injury is most common at the junction of the muscle and tendon. As soon as the muscle is injured, there is significant swelling and inflammation. Following this, the muscle gradually starts to heal by regenerating muscle fibers from stem cells which are present around the area of injury, which results in the formation of scar tissue around the injured site. Gradually, this scar tissue remodels but the muscle is never able to fully regenerate and hence this injured muscle becomes prone to future injuries with even slightest of force applied to it.
Diagnosis & Types of Muscle Injuries
Muscle Injuries are diagnosed basically by history and physical examination of the patient. During history taking, the physician will inquire as to how the injury occurred or when the symptoms started and then conduct a physical examination of the injured area. The physician will try to move the injured area and observe for any significant pain to ascertain the extent of injury as well as inspect for area of bruising and skin discoloration. The degree of weakness of the muscle and the loss of range of motion will help guide the physician as to how long the patient will take to recover and go back to normal activities. Muscle Injuries are graded into three types depending on their severity.
Type I Muscle Injuries: These injuries are minor and there is very little damage done to the muscle fibers. There will be minimal swelling and slight loss of range of motion,
Type II Muscle Injuries: In Theses types of injuries, there is much extensive damage to the muscle fibers, although the muscle may not be completely torn or ruptured. There will be significant loss of range of motion and muscle weakness with such Muscle Injuries.
Type III Muscle Injuries: These are the most severe form of Muscle Injuries with complete detachment of the muscle from the tendon. The patient with such type of Muscle Injury will not have any range of motion of the affected site.
To evaluate the extent of damage and to classify the type of Muscle Injury the patient has sustained, the physician will order radiological studies in the form of x-rays, MRI or CT scans to look at the internal structures and to see how much damage has been done to the muscle and muscle fibers in order to formulate a treatment plan best suited for the patient.
What is the Treatment for Muscle Injuries?
Majority of Muscle Injuries are type I or Type II injuries in which the muscle is either not detached or partially detached from the tendon. Such injuries can be treated conservatively following the RICE protocol and avoiding activities that may aggravate the condition even more and thus giving time for the muscle to heal and regenerate.
NSAIDs like Tylenol or ibuprofen may be prescribed to calm down the pain and inflammation. Once the pain and swelling has calmed down the physician will recommend physical therapy for strengthening and improve range of motion if required.
For Type III or severe Muscle Injuries, surgery is recommended to correct the rupture and attach the muscle back to the tendon. Postsurgery, the patient will need to avoid any use of the affected region until the wound heals. Once the wound has healed, the physician will recommend some light exercises such as stretching. After about three weeks Postsurgery a strengthening program will be started to increase muscle strength and improve range of motion.
What is the Recovery Time for Muscle Injuries?
For Type I and II type Muscle Injuries, the recovery time is usually two to three weeks before the patient is allowed to gradually return back to normal activities.
For Type III Muscle Injuries and injuries which require surgery to correct the problem the recovery time is much more. It may take upwards of six months before an individual is gradually allowed to get back to normal activities after suffering from a Muscle Injury.