What to do when you strain, pull or pop a muscle.
Most people have strained, pulled or popped a muscle at some point in life and many try to work or play through it. According to Peter Gerbino MD, the best thing you can do is to stop what you’re doing to assess the injury.
Did you hear a pop or did you experience pain? The answer will help you assess the severity of the injury and take the right next steps to get the best outcome.
1/ Level 1 is a strained muscle with no loss of strength
2/ Level 2 is a strained muscle with some swelling and loss of strength
3/ Level 3-4 is a torn muscle associated with a popping sound
If you heard a pop and are experiencing severe pain, consult a doctor within the first 24-48 hours to rule out a tendon injury. A tendon injury is much more severe than a strained or torn muscle and your outcome depends on timely treatment.
Rehabbing a strain, pull or popped muscle
1/ Don’t stretch the muscle
The muscle has already been stretched too much so stretching it more will do more harm than good. Elevating the injured limb will make it feel better.
2/ Rest your body
Let the injured limb rest for the first 24-48 hours. Take pain relief medication as needed and use ice packs for 20 minutes or less at a time to reduce inflammation. Heat should be avoided. It might feel good but it will cause more inflammation.
3/ Start strengthening your muscle
The injured limb needs to be strengthened to support your movement. So start slow and find a comfortable range of motion. Movement will increase the blood flow to the injury and help you heal faster. If you consulted a physician, follow their guidance for returning to regular activities and/or sports.
4/ Limit your initial duration
The injured limb needs time to build endurance. Take your time to gradually increase the length and intensity of use so that you don’t re-injure the limb. Regular rolling or massage will help to mobilize the scar tissue.
5/ Be patient
Your recovery time depends on the extent of the injury and your age. The recovery period for someone fifty may be twice as long as for someone twenty-five. If you rush it, you run the risk of re-injury.
Injuries are disappointing but also present an opportunity
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