What we’ll cover
Muscle strains are a form of soft tissue injury that can be incredibly frustrating if not managed well. Injuries occur when the amount of force going through a tissue exceeds it’s tolerance or capacity. This can be from an acute incident, through to an accumulation of repetitive overloading. Whilst muscle strains can occur to anyone, they are most common in the sporting or athletic population. Common muscle strains that occur include a hamstring, quadriceps or calf strain.
What are the common symptoms of a muscle strain?
The common signs of a soft tissue injury generally include localised and sharp pain. This commonly occurs when the muscle is being used either during a contraction or when the muscle is being stretched. In most cases, the actual incident or time of injury can be pin pointed to a specific incident or moment in time. For example, when you watch the football, you may see the moment that a player grabs their hamstring when running or about to push off.
Other common signs and symptoms of a soft tissue injury include:
- A lump or knot at the site of the injury.
- Muscle cramping or spasm.
- Difficulty stretching the muscle.
- Muscle weakness.
- Bruising and swelling.
How long does it a take a muscle strain to heal?
Depending on the severity of a the muscle strain, healing time frames can vary. A mild strain can vary in healing time frames from four to six weeks. In more severe cases, recovery can take several months.
However, in most cases, if treated and managed well, muscle strains can recover completely with a good prognosis.
How does a muscle strain heal?
Following a muscle strain, your muscle will initially have inflammation and swelling at the site of the strain. Following this inflammatory phase, your body will start to heal and regenerate muscle fibres near the site of the injury. However, in addition to muscle fibres, your body will also lay down a significant amount of scar tissue around the injury.
Importantly, rehabilitation gradually places more and more load through the muscle to ensure that this scar tissue remodels and progressively adapts. Without sufficient loading and rehabilitation, a muscle strain can heal poorly with excess scar tissue. Excess scar tissue following a muscle strain can result in a significant increased likelihood of re-injury.
Physiotherapy for a muscle strain
Your physiotherapist is an expert in the assessment and treatment following a muscle strain. A thorough assessment can be completed to assess the degree and severity of your muscle strain.
Physiotherapy then focuses on reducing the initial symptoms of a muscle strain. In the early stages of rehabilitation, your physiotherapist may use common techniques such as soft tissue work, dry needling, stretches and exercises to safely reduce the pain and swelling.
Depending on the severity of your strain, your physiotherapist will guide you through exercises to reduce scar tissue and ensure remodelling. These exercises vary from person to person and are dependent on the stage of rehabilitation. Strengthening exercises for a muscle strain work on the premise of progressively and safely loading the muscle up to ensure it adapts.
How do I know if I’m ready to return to sport following a muscle strain?
There are a number of ways to determine if you are safe and ready to return to sport. Your physiotherapist will perform a number of return to play tests. These tests are designed to mimic how the muscle would work in your usual sport or activity.
Commonly, these tests will not only look at your strength, but also your power and endurance. At Malvern East Physiotherapy, in addition to performing these tests, our physiotherapists are also able to assess your strength and power using our AxIT muscle testing system.
Part of getting you back to sport is gradually building up the tissue tolerance in your injured muscle. Once safe to to do, your physiotherapist will be able to provide a comprehensive and graduated return to play to ensure your muscle strain continues to positively adapt and progress.
If you have sustained a muscle strain, book in with our physiotherapists today. Call our team or book online.