Dealing with Common Muscle Strain

Many people are active in sports or have jobs that require heavy lifting and other activities that can cause muscle strain. These strains can cause pain and inability to use the muscle normally for a period of time. Careful attention to these minor injuries is important. Muscle strain can leave people with ongoing conditions, such as back problems that may require continuous treatment.

What Causes Muscle Strain?

Muscles are composed of long fibers of flesh that can be stretched and contracted as needed to do tasks. However, sometimes these fibers are stretched beyond their capacity or even torn, leading to pain and temporary disability. In severe strains, you may actually hear a "pop" sound as the muscle tears or pulls away from its tendon.

Symptoms of Strain

Muscle strain can cause tenderness or even significant pain. There may be swelling or bruising of surface. The muscle may be injured enough to cramp when used. Weakness of the muscle often accompanies strains. In severe cases, a gap or dent in the appearance of the muscle can be seen. Most strains last for a few days or a few weeks, but severe strains can take up to 10 weeks to heal properly.

Back Strain

Back strain can be particularly troublesome because the back often takes longer to heal and most ordinary movement requires the use of these muscles. If a back strain prevents doing normal activities, you should seek medical help. If the back pain increases rather than diminishes, it could be a sign of a severe injury. If back strain does not improve after 2 weeks, you may require additional treatment. Numbness in the groin or rectum, sudden feelings of weakness in the legs, fever or chills, pain or burning on urination or problems controlling these functions can signal a severe injury of the back. See a physician as soon as possible.

Treating Muscle Strain

The standard treatment for common strain is rest and ice for several days after the injury. NSAIDs medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, are usually helpful for the pain. Acetaminophen, brand name Tylenol, can also help to relieve pain in those who cannot take NSAIDs medications. An elastic bandage can help to support the muscle as it heals. As the pain subsides, the application of heat can be helpful to reduce discomfort and increase mobility. Gentle exercise and light stretching can also help to restore the muscle to full use. Some swelling may occur at the site of the injury. If the swelling increases or cause immobility, you should consult professional help immediately.

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