Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

Fitness By the Fire: The cause and treatment of pulled muscles

by Ron Kennedy • January 26, 2017
When choosing, and researching topics to educate and inform our followers of the benefits of proper knowledge for their fitness lifestyles, normally I identify external topics that catch the interests of the people we serve. Yet from a bit of personally misfortune, I have been fortunate enough to be inspired from my own recent painful experience and touch upon a topic we can all find some value in; Muscle strains and pulled muscle. I had the lovely experience of simply stretching, using a foam roller to loosen the muscles in my middle back, and as soon as I stood up from movements I repeat several times a week on a regular basis… instant strain and discomfort. Pulled muscles are the “X” factor of the fitness world. It matters not of your age, sex, or fitness level, pulled and over strained muscles can strike anywhere, at any time to anyone.

A muscle strain, or pulled muscle, occurs when your muscle is overstretched or torn. This usually occurs as a result of fatigue, overuse, or improper use of a muscle. Strains can happen in any muscle, but they’re most common in your lower back, neck, shoulder, and hamstring. In a mild strain, a torn muscle may feel slightly stiff but still flexible enough for use. A severe muscle strain is when the muscle is severely torn. This results in pain and very limited movement. An acute muscle strain is when your muscle tears suddenly and unexpectedly. Such tears can occur either from injuries or trauma. This can be caused by not warming up properly, poor conditioning or flexibility, and overexertion or fatigue. There is a misconception that only rigorous exercises and workouts of high intensity cause muscle strains. Acute muscle strains are also more common in cold weather. This is because muscles are stiffer in lower temperatures.

Though every fitness level is vulnerable to some sort of muscle strain, what directly causes the injury is traumatic ripping of the muscle tissue. The ripping usually occurs where the muscles meet the tendon. The more the fibers are torn, the worse the strain.  In the case of a serious strain, the entire muscle may completely rupture, literally ripped in half.
Symptoms of muscle strain include:
  • Muscle pain and tenderness, especially after an activity that stretches or violently contracts the muscle -- Pain usually increases when you move the muscle but is relieved by rest.
  • Muscle swelling, discoloration or both
  • Muscle cramp or spasm
  • Either a decrease in muscle strength or a complete loss of muscle function
  • A pop in the muscle at the time of injury.
  • A gap, dent or other defect in the normal outline of the muscle.
How long a sprain lasts depends on the location and severity of the injury. Symptoms of a mild back strain usually improve within one to two weeks and are gone within four to six weeks. In the legs, mild or moderate strains may take up to 8 to 10 weeks or more to heal.

Luckily for us fitness enthusiasts, treatment for muscle strains is easy to administer and cost effective. Doctors I have spoken too about the affliction refer me to the “RICE” rule:
  • Rest the injured muscle (and take a temporary break from sports activities).
  • Ice the injured area to reduce swelling.
  • Compress the muscle with an elastic bandage.
  • Elevate the injured area.
To help relieve muscle pain and swelling, your doctor may suggest that you take acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others). For someone with a painful back strain that does not improve with NSAIDs or acetaminophen (Tylenol), prescription pain medications or muscle relaxants may be appropriate.

Despite the ease of straining a muscle and the fact that no matter how well you plan your fitness programs, not matter how good of shape you might be in, and well experienced you are at the fitness activity you enjoy, you are a susceptible target for the evil muscle strain phantom. The good news is, yes, you will be able to lift again. The human body is remarkably resilient, and with proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment, you can minimize your recovery time and get back to making progress sooner.