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I’ve Only Pulled A Muscle Right? It Will Heal By Itself I Don’t Need To Get It Checked…..


As I sit here writing this I am thinking back to the gymnastics of the 2018 Commonwealth games and it brought back memories to my competing gymnastics days. Now these athletes are highly skilled and top of their sport but as with any human being they are susceptible to injury.


Muscle injuries are the focus of this article. I’ve seen and treated hundreds if not thousands of these during my time as a physio working in sport and in my clinic.


In the last couple of weeks my team at the clinic have seen a lot of hamstring strains in runners and footballers.


Muscle strains tend to happen in bigger muscles like hamstrings, quadriceps, calf muscles and biceps. Each of these are power muscles and work hard to help us move and push our bodies to the limit.


If you have ever had a muscle strain you know what I mean when I say you know when you have done it. It can be absolute agony. I’ve had clients say it felt like they had been shot in the leg.


Muscle Strains Come In Three Grades


Grade I is a minor strain tearing just a few fibres only and heal within a week or two.


Grade II strains – you will have torn about 50% of the muscle fibres and this will leave you in pain, with bruising from the blood loss, you will feel stiff as you will lose the ability to take your body part through it’s normal full range of movement due to the bleeding and swelling.  This will result in you not being able to use that body part as you normally would. This could range from not being able to put weight at all through a leg, walking with a limp, or in an upper limb injury not being able to wash and dress as normal or lift objects.


Now the last grade of damage is a grade III and this is where the muscle is completely torn. Often there is minimal or even no pain as the nerve fibres sending pain message to your brain are damaged too so do not send pain messages anymore, the muscle looks odd and you know you have lost movement and strength. These tend to happen in big power activities such as sprinting, playing contact sports, power lifting to name a few.


I’ve seen bicep and hamstring muscles torn off the bone, as well as big calf tears and even treated a torn pectoral muscle.


So now you know the degrees at which as muscle can be strained / torn you now need to know what is best to do to treat it.


Having the mentality of time is a great healer and I’ll just get some painkillers, anti-inflammatories, maybe some muscle rubs or gels or a support is definitely going to lead you down the path of problems in the future.


All soft tissue injuries heal with something called scar tissue. Can’t change this as this is the body’s way of healing naturally. Now what you do need to take note of is that scar tissue is not as strong and flexible as the muscle tissue that tore so left to heal by itself the scar tissue will likely tear apart in the future and give you more problems. Ever heard someone complain they’ve torn their hamstring again!….Yep me too!


What Do You Need To Do To Make Sure A Muscle Injury Heals Well?


First of all you need to get the injury assessed as quickly as possible by an expert medical professional such as a physiotherapist. From taking details of how the injury happened and carrying out a physical examination of the injury we will be able to tell you what injury you have done and to what severity. Once you know this, you will be told what is the best plan of action to get you back to your normal self.


If there is a little delay before you get to see a physio the things you can do at home to help protect the injury form further damage and to start helping it heal well are:


  1. Protection – by this we mean prevent the injury from worsening. Depending on the body part that is injured you may need crutches if you cannot bear weight as normal, a bandage, tape or support. If say you have torn a bicep muscle a sling may be necessary.


  1. Rest – When we say rest we mean relative rest. Do not continue to expect your body to work as normal straight away after a muscle injury as if you do you risk making any bleeding and damage worse as you are asking an injured area to work as normal when it just cannot cope with this.


So where does the relative bit come in….well if you do absolutely nothing the blood and swelling will remain at the injury site and cause more pain and stiffness. You will need to gently move the injured area through a pain free range of movement to get the blood circulating and to help move that swelling.


  1. Ice – now this is a recent contentious issue. Researchers are wondering if ice is a good as they first believed. To be honest I would still recommend ice to clients for its pain relieving properties. Please please please just DON’T put heat on a new injury (first 24-72 hours) as this will make things worse.


  1. Compression – now over the years I’ve used compression bandages but you need to understand you need to not just put a tiny bandage over just the injured area. For example I’ve seen people come to clinic with a tiny strip of bandage and all that happens is the swelling collect at the top and bottom of the bandage. So for a calf injury I would bandage from just under the knee down to the toes.


  1. K-Tape is another great tool we use for swelling management. What the k-tape is said to do is lift the skin away from the injury to let the lymphatic drainage system work allowing the swelling to drain away. I’ve seen some amazing results using this.


The above are a guide for you to try and not a complete cure. Try these things at home and see how you go. My best advice to you though however minor you think an injury is, is to get it checked by an expert professional. Don’t waste money on trips to the pharmacist for rubs, creams and gels as they will not give you good healing all they may do is ease the pain and trick you in to thinking your injury is better and please do not consult Dr. Google as we’ve seen many clients end up seeing us in a worse state than they were prior to self diagnosing from symptom checking on the internet.


If you are struggling with a muscle injury right now click on the link below to get our top tips on how to get back to normal faster, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and keeping free from painkillers and sports supports.  Get your free copy of our sports injury guide: http://www.wdcphysio.wpenginepowered.com/physiotherapy/free-guide-for-injured-athletes/












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About Wendy McCloud

Wendy is the founder of The South East’s Leading Specialist Private Physiotherapy Practice for People in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, who want to keep healthy and active.

Wendy’s background includes working as an Extended Scope Practitioner Physiotherapist working as part of Mr. Ali Al-Sabti’s Orthopaedic Consultant’s team specialising in Shoulder Pain.

Wendy has treated royalty for Shoulder pain through referrals from her close links with a top Orthopaedic Shoulder Surgeons. More recently Wendy has been the sole choice physiotherapist for all Essex based referrals from London Shoulder surgeon Mr. Matthew Sala.

Wendy worked in National Level Rugby Union for 11 years, working with players who achieved county honours and representative honours for various countries such as England, Samoa, Australia and New Zealand. Wendy resigned from her position as Head Physiotherapist at Southend RFC in June 2011 to open WDC which has become the fastest growing clinic in the South East of England.

WDC is now a large multi-therapist speciality practice in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.

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Wendy founded WDC in September 2006. She has worked in both the public and private sectors. Within the NHS, Wendy worked as a Senior Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and an Extended Scope Practitioner Physiotherapist as part of an Orthopaedic Consultant’s team specialising in Shoulder Pain. Wendy has treated royalty for Shoulder pain through referrals from her close links with a top Orthopaedic Shoulder Surgeon. More recently, Wendy has been the sole choice physiotherapist for all Essex-based referrals from London Shoulder surgeon Mr Matthew Sala. Wendy also worked within the national rugby union as the head physiotherapist for Southend Rugby Football Club. She led the medical service at the club for 11 years, working with players who achieved county honours and representative honours for various countries such as England, Samoa, Australia, and New Zealand.
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