We’ve all heard the term and we’ve all probably experienced a pulled muscle at some point in time. They are one of the most common sporting injuries, especially in team sports and those that require the use of fast-twitch fibres, such as sprinting. But what does it mean to pull a muscle? Our expert guide breaks down what causes the injury, the biology behind it and how to treat it.
How do you pull a muscle?
The human body contains three different types of muscles: cardiac, skeletal, and visceral. The only type we have control over is skeletal muscles, such as your bicep, making these muscles more prone to injury. Muscles are made up of thousands of fibres. Pulling a muscle is when you overexert the muscle causing a full or partial tear. This can be as mild as a ‘grade one’ strain which is what we call a pulled muscle. In this case, you would feel a sudden twinge and see inflammation and swelling in the area.
Severity of pulled muscle
A mild ‘pull’ might see you out of action for a matter of weeks, but a moderate pull affecting a higher percentage of fibres could mean you are injured for over a month. In the unfortunate case of a full tear severing the muscle, you may require surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation phase with our physios at Cairnhill Physiotherapy.
How to treat a pulled muscle
The R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method has been replaced by P.E.A.C.E & L.O.V.E. Immediately after injury, soft tissue injuries require PEACE in the first few days.
P is for Protection: Avoid activities and movements that increase pain for a few days.
E is for Elevation: Elevate your injury above your heart level, especially at night, to reduce swelling.
A is for Avoid anti-inflammatories: These medications reduce the rate of tissue healing.
C is for Compression: Instead, use a compression bandage or taping to reduce swelling.
E is for Education: Physiotherapists can educate patients on best recovery practices.
& in the following days, soft tissue injuries require LOVE.
L is for Load: Let your body and physiotherapist guide your gradual return to normal activities and slowly increase load.
O is for Optimism: Practise optimism and positivity to enhance your recovery.
V is for Vasculatisation: Use pain-free cardio to increase blood flow to the injured area.
E is for Exercise: Active recovery can help restore strength and mobility.
For medical support following an injury, book to see a physiotherapist who can put together a bespoke treatment and recovery plan to get you back to full fitness quickly.
Who is at risk?
Anyone doing physical exercise could potentially pull a muscle. The chances of a pulled muscle can be reduced by warming up and stretching before the activity. Working on improving your flexibility and range of motion can also reduce the risk. This can be achieved with the use of a physiotherapist.
Contact us today to book an appointment.