As with any injury, consult your physician immediately. This information is not intended to replace a medical doctors recommendation. Elizabeth Menzel assumes no liability of any kind.
Most muscle strains can be treated with the RICE protocol.
RICE stands for REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, and ELEVATION.
- Rest: Take a break from the activity that caused the strain and give the injured body part extra rest. Your physician may recommend that you use crutches to avoid putting weight on an injured leg.
- Ice: That's right, not heat, but ice. Apply ice on top of a towel, not directly to the skin, for intervals of 20 minutes on 20 minutes off, several times a day. Some cold packs are not actually cold enough, they are usually 33 degrees or above. Bags of frozen peas or corn work great, are flexible, can wrap around body parts, and are inexpensive. (do not consume refrozen peas or corn - yucky)
- Compression: To prevent additional swelling and blood loss, wear an elastic compression bandage or ace bandage.
- Elevation: If possible, prop your injured body part up higher than your heart to minimize swelling. Be sure that your injured area is supported from underneath by a pillow.
Your doctor may recommend a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, such as aspirin or another analgesic for pain relief. Turmeric and Ginger are known to have natural anti-inflamatory properties. So eat as many gingerbread cookies as possible. Kidding. You can slice up the ginger root and pour boiling water over it, let it steep a few minutes, maybe add a bit of honey, and enjoy. Speak to a nutritionist or check out all of the information on Turmeric on www.vitacost.com. As the pain and swelling subside, massage therapy will help reduce pain, improve range of motion, and strengthen the injured area. Please wait 72 hours before administering massage therapy. The muscle should be at full strength and pain-free before you return to sports. This will help prevent additional injury.
Several factors can predispose you to muscle strains, including:
- Muscle tightness. Tight muscles are vulnerable to strain. Before any athletic activity, you can warm up before, and stretch afterwards. Athletes should follow a year-round program of daily stretching exercises. When stretching, do NOT push beyond the beginning of the stretch. Stay at the beginning, where you just start to feel the stretch, & take 3 deep slow breaths. Then come out of the stretch, rest, and then stretch again - stopping at the beginning of the stretch once more. You will notice that with each round of gentle stretching, you can safely go a bit further!
- Muscle imbalance. Each muscle has its counter part. When you are using your biceps, your triceps are released. When you use your hamstrings, your quadriceps let go. If one muscle is stronger than its counter part, the weaker muscle can become strained.
- Poor conditioning. If your muscles are weak, they are less able to cope with the stress of exercise and are more likely to be injured.
- Muscle fatigue. Fatigue reduces the energy-absorbing capabilities of muscle, making them more susceptible to injury.
A proper warm-up is protective because it increases range of motion and reduces stiffness. You can take the following precautions to help prevent muscle strain:
- Warm up before any exercise session or sports activity for several minutes. This will help increase your speed and endurance.
- Stretch slowly and gradually holding each stretch at the place where you first start to feel the stretch; this gives the muscle time to respond and lengthen. Only muscles that feel they are safe fully let go.
- Condition your muscles with a regular program of exercises. You can ask me, your physician, or your trainer about exercise programs for people of your age and activity level.
- If you are injured, take the time needed to let the muscle heal before you return to sports. Wait until your muscle strength and flexibility return to preinjury levels. This can take 10 days to 3 weeks for a mild strain, and up to 6 months for a severe strain, such as a hamstring strain.
Properly caring for your body allows your body to better care for you!