A muscle strain is an injury to a muscle or a fibrous tissue connecting muscle to bones called a tendon. A muscle strain occurs when the muscle is torn or overstretched. Mild symptoms of muscle strain can be usually improved by home treatment, while more severe muscle strain may need some medications, a physical therapy or a surgical repair.
People with a muscle strain may experience signs and symptoms that are varied to its severity including:
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Pain or tenderness
- Limited motion
- Redness or bruising
When to see the doctor
Normally, a muscle strain can be improved with home treatment. However, if your symptoms get worsened or you experience unbearable pain, numbness or tingling, you are advised to see the doctor.
Severe or chronic muscle strains are usually caused by some events, such as lifting heavy objects or repetitive injuries.
The risk of a muscle strain is increased in people who participate in contact sports such as football, boxing and wrestling. Different kinds of sport may cause the different area of muscle strain such as:
- Quick starting and jumping sports may cause injuries in legs and ankles.
- Gripping sports may increase chances of hand injury.
- Throwing sports may result in elbow injuries.
The doctor will conduct a physical exam to check for some symptoms including swelling and tenderness including areas of the pain which may be able to determine the damage. An ultrasound may be used to differentiate types of soft tissue injuries.
Mild muscle strains can be usually treated at home. You may have an immediate self-care with R.I.C.E. approach in including the procedures below:
- Rest - You may avoid some activities that may cause or increase pain, swelling or discomfort.
- Ice - Use an ice pack with the injured area immediately for 15 - 20 minutes every couple hours during the first few days of the injury.
- Compression - Compress the area with an elastic bandage to help discontinue swelling.
- Elevation - Raise the injured area above the heart level to reduce swelling.
The doctor may prescribe some medication to relieve the pain and recommend physical therapy to promote stability and strength of the injured joint or limb. Surgical repair may be also recommended especially in people with a torn tendon.
Preparing for the appointment
Before your appointment, you may prepare some information including:
- your symptoms
- medical problems you have had
- medications, vitamins and dietary supplements consumed
- questions that you want to ask the doctor
During the consulting, the doctor may ask some questions including the information such as:
- the movement during the injury
- sound or feeling of a pop or snap
- the beginning of the symptoms
- treatment you have tried
- your experienced injury