Muscles are found all over your body – there are over 600 of them! Muscles allow us to move and are also working when we are just standing still. We are not normally aware of them working, but they can become painful if they are injured or not able to work properly.
Muscle strain or tear?
Muscles can be injured if they work beyond their capability. Muscular injuries are generally graded on a three-point scale:
Grade 1 – A strain or tear of just a small number of the many fibres that make up the muscle. Painful, but generally recover in a few days.
Grade 2 – A tear of a significant number of muscles fibres. There is generally significant pain and swelling. Muscle contractions are painful with some loss of strength. These take several weeks to recover from.
Grade 3 – A complete tear of the muscle. There is normally extensive swelling and bruising. These are often very painful at the time but then may be less painful than a Grade 2 injury afterwards as there is no damaged tissue left to stress.
These injuries need immediate management using P.R.I.C.E. Physiotherapists can assess you for these injuries and manage them appropriately. Sometimes it is necessary to seek an Orthopaedic Specialist’s opinion which the physio can advise you on.
Treatment is best sought quickly to ensure the injury is given the best chance of recovery. Physiotherapists have a wide range of treatments available including, massage, exercise, electrotherapy and taping which can all form part of your rehabilitation.
The rehabilitation process helps the tissue to knit and strengthen and minimises the scar tissue. Once the initial heal has happened it is important to build the strength and control back into the muscle with progressive exercises which are specifically designed for you to return you to your work or sport.
Commonly, muscles become tight because of our daily lives. The way we stand, sit or exercise can result in tightness of certain muscles. This can cause pain at the point of tightness or can affect the way that we move resulting in pain in another part of the body. Your physiotherapist will be able to assess you for areas of tightness, weakness or muscle imbalance and help you to correct this.
Muscles can be tight following an old injury, particularly if the injury was not managed well originally. This is why an early and thorough assessment is important. Tightness can often be greatly helped by massage techniques, myofascial release, stretching and exercise.
A muscle tends to go into a spasm (a strong, painful contraction) in order to protect your body. This often occurs in the lower back or neck. A thorough assessment is required to determine the cause of the spasm and to decide on the most appropriate treatment. Usually, there is another underlying joint, nerve or disc issue causing the spasm.