A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon in which the muscle fibres tear as a result of overstretching. A strain is also colloquially known as a pulled muscle. The equivalent injury to a ligament is a sprain.
Typical symptoms of a strain include: localized pain, stiffness, discoloration and bruising around the strained muscle.
Strains are a result of muscular-fiber tears due to overstretching. They can happen while doing everyday tasks and are not restricted to athletes. Nevertheless, people who play sports are more at risk of developing a strain due to increased muscle exertion.
The first-line treatment for a muscular strain in the acute phase include five steps commonly known as R.I.C.E.
- Rest: Rest is necessary to accelerate healing and reduce the potential for reinjury.
- Ice: Apply cold pack to reduce swelling by reducing blood flow to the injury site. Never ice for more than 20 minutes at a time and never apply ice directly onto the skin.
- Compression: Wrap the strained area to reduce swelling with a bandage or Tubigrip.
- Elevation: Try to keep the strained above the level of the heart to assist drainage.
This immediate treatment is usually accompanied by the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen), which both reduce the immediate inflammation and relieve pain. However, NSAIDs, including aspirin and ibuprofen, affect platelet function (this is why they are known as “blood thinners”) and should not be taken during the period when tissue is bleeding because they will tend to increase blood flow, inhibit clotting, and thereby increase bleeding and swelling. After the bleeding has stopped, NSAIDs can be used with some effectiveness to reduce inflammation and pain.
Proper nutrition including protein intake is important for optimal recovery. Likewise the underlying cause of the tear nees to be identified. This may include weak, inflexible muscles or nerves, or simply poor functional technique.
It is recommended that the person injured should consult a medical provider if the injury is accompanied by severe pain, if the limb cannot be used, or if there is noticeable tenderness over an isolated part. These can be signs of a broken or fractured bone, a sprain, or a complete muscle tear.