Muscle injuries

Specialty of Orthopaedic surgery

What are muscle injuries?

Muscle injuries are usually painful and are caused by overstraining, either during sports or during your daily activities. A muscle is made up of the discrete muscle and the tendons, and it can be imagines as a rope and its fibres. Muscle injuries can affect all of the fibres or only a part of them, and they can be classified into:

  • contractures: the muscle becomes tight after an involuntary contraction;
  • pull: an over-stretch of the muscle fibre;
  • strain: tearing of the muscle fibre.

A strain can be divided into several categories, based on which muscle fibres are affected:

  • First degree: a muscle injury limited to certain fibres; you only feel a mild pain when the muscles contract. It usually lasts a week and requires no treatment.
  • Second degree: there may be a haematoma and the pain could progressively increase in the following days. You may need to get it checked out to determine the exact location of the injury and to estimate recovery times.
  • Third degree: the most severe injury, as in this case all muscle fibres are torn. You may feel like you can’t move, as well as experiencing acute pain, and notice a haematoma. You’ll need to see your doctor for treatment.

Prognosis

The outlook depends on how severely you were injured and in the case of a second- or third- degree strain, how soon after the injury you seek medical support.

What are the symptoms?

Depending on how severe it is, a muscle injury can cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • swelling and a burning sensation
  • bruising, swelling and redness
  • feeling pain when you’re using the affected muscle
  • feeling pain even when the affected muscle is at rest
  • weakness
  • mobility impairment (partial or total functional loss of the affected muscle)
  • a depression of the affected area
  • high temperature

How is it diagnosed?

At the very least you will have a physical examination to determine the extent of the swelling, haematoma, pain or depression. In some cases the doctor may refer you for an Ultrasound scan or MRI scan to get a complete picture of the muscle.

What causes them?

Muscle injuries can occur due to direct and indirect causes:

Direct muscle injuries are caused by external factors, such as carrying heavy loads, repetitive movements, traumas, unhealed injuries, poor posture, environment and weather, playing on unsafe playing ground

Indirect muscle injuries are caused by internal factors, such as a poor diet, skipping warm-up and cool-down and muscle fatigue.

How can muscle injuries be prevented?

Muscle injuries can be prevented in the following simple ways:

  • make sure to warm-up adequately before exercise
  • eat a healthy diet
  • stay hydrated;
  • use proper equipment
  • wear good sportswear and well-fitting shoes

How are muscle injuries treated?

Treatment depends on the affected muscle, severity of the injury and where it is located.

To avoid worsening the trauma, as soon as you feel some pain or discomfort you should stop exercising and put ice on the area. A lot of the people who don’t stop exercising, fuelled by competitiveness, end up making it much worse. In order to prevent bruising in the area, you should avoid any straining for 24-36 hours. Apply ice and compression (using elastic bandages), and elevate the injured area to prevent swelling.

Treatment mainly involves giving the muscle adequate rest, and tackling inflammation. The doctor may recommend exercises for you to gradually build strength in the muscle again, or may refer you to a physiotherapist. In severe cases they may recommend the use a brace to keep the muscle still for the first few days after the injury.

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