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Pulled Muscle: What You Need To Do

We’ve all been there – a sudden, painful tightening in your thigh, or the shock of your ankle going from under you. A pulled muscle – also known as a muscle strain – can happen without warning and is caused by the muscle or tendon becoming overstretched or tearing. If you’re out for a run and pull a muscle in your thigh, you’ll be feeling it for days. If you pull a muscle in your ankle, you’re likely to find it abruptly stops supporting your weight. 

No matter your fitness level or age, muscle strains can affect anyone, at any time. Here’s what you need to do if you have a pulled muscle…

Signs Of A Strained Muscle…

The most common muscles to suffer from a pull are your shoulders, lower back, neck and hamstrings. Symptoms that indicate you have pulled a muscle include:

  • Muscle weakness.
  • Redness, swelling or bruising.
  • Problems using a particular muscle. 
  • A sudden pain when using a particular muscle.
  • Pain in the muscle even while at rest.

Treating Muscle Strain At Home…

If the muscle pull is only mild you may be able to treat it yourself at home. If, however, you are still experiencing pain after 24-hours, or your symptoms are severe, it’s a good idea to seek a professional assessment and treatment. 

Decide If You Need A Professional Diagnosis…

Because of the wide range in severity of pulled muscles, it’s important to seek professional care immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • A significant amount of pain.
  • A sudden inability to walk.
  • You also have a fever.
  • You heard a ‘popping’ sound as the injury occurred. 
  • There is broken skin in the area of your injury. 
  • The injured area is showing major swelling. 

While a mild muscle pull may seem inconsequential, it’s always advisable to seek professional advice, particularly if you suspect the strain to be severe. Depending on which muscle you have injured you could be looking at considerable recovery time, as well as secondary complications. For example, pulled muscles in the legs and feet often lead to us walking unnaturally. This, in turn, can put additional strain on other muscles.

In other words, when you favour one leg because it is injured you can inadvertently injure the other leg by putting too much weight, stress, or pressure on it. 

A physiotherapist will be able to advise you on how to move while you’re healing to avoid this, and also what steps you can take to help speed up your recovery. 

How To Treat A Pulled Muscle…

A pulled muscle is easily treated through a combination of anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers, as well as targeted physical therapy. In addition to this, there are several ways to ease your symptoms and improve your recovery time, including:

  • Rest is usually the best healer. Giving your injured muscle a few days to rest and recover is usually the best course of action. Depending on the severity of the strain you may be able to start some gentle movements after two days.  
  • Cooling down the pulled muscle by applying ice to your injury for 20 minutes of every waking hour is a good way to reduce inflammation. Be careful not to apply the ice directly to your bare skin – wrap it in a tea towel, or use an ice pack. 
  • Conversely, heating up the affected area can also provide relief. Do not do this in the first three days – that’s what the ice is for! – but after that period the application of a heat pad a few times each day can ease your discomfort. Again, do not apply head to bare skin. 
  • Elevating your injured muscle will reduce swelling.
  • Seeking medical advice prior to taking medication is advisable, however, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen can usually be used to reduce the pain and swelling.
  • Finally, compression may be used to bring down the swelling. Wrap your affected muscle with an elasticated bandage to effectively compress the area. Do not wrap it too tightly, as you will prevent proper blood circulation. 

If you’re struggling with a pulled or strained muscle you don’t need to suffer in silence. Get in touch today and one of our trained professionals can advise you on how best to manage your injury…

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