How to Speed Up Muscle Strain Recovery | Methods & Tips
Muscle strain can be incredibly frustrating and slow healing. When dealing with muscle strain, it’s important to look for ways to speed up recovery. Fortunately, there are various things that can be done – such as rest and correct body positioning – that may aid in a speedy recovery of strained muscles. In this blog post, we will explore these methods on how to speed up muscle strain recovery.
Definition of Muscle Strain
When muscles are injured from overstretching and/or overuse, they become inflamed and tighten up, resulting in pain and restricted mobility. The severity of the strain depends on how badly the muscles have been damaged. Mild to moderate strains may cause pain but little loss of strength; more serious strains can lead to complete tears which can require medical attention for proper healing (1). Severe strains may even require surgery. Strains are common in athletes and people who engage in strenuous exercise.
Symptoms of Muscle Strain
Symptoms include stiffness, weak muscles, soreness, and tenderness and cramping in the affected area. In some cases, there may also be visible redness and swelling and an inability to move the muscle without experiencing significant discomfort. Depending on the severity of the strain, it may also cause sudden sharp pain or a burning sensation and there may be bruising and lacerations around the strained area. In other cases, there may be numbness or tingling in the affected muscle group. If left untreated for too long, these symptoms can worsen, causing more severe muscle damage, cellular inflammation, and in severe cases, eventually preventing the muscle from functioning properly.
Causes of Muscle Strain
Overused muscles causes microscopic tears in the muscle fibers, leading to muscle strains. When they are overused, they become fatigued and are unable to contract properly, which causes inflammation in the muscle. Over time, this inflammation increases the likelihood of another strained muscle. Chronic muscle strains can be slow healing and can result in a decrease of muscle strength as well as decreased range of motion. In some cases, it can even lead to debilitating conditions such as tendinitis or bursitis, and can may even lead to long-term damage or disability if left untreated.
Poor form can injure muscles as they are being used incorrectly and in an inefficient manner over a period of time. Muscles work together as a unit, so when one muscle is working too hard or not enough, it can create tension and stress on other muscles that are not meant to be doing extra work. This tension and stress can lead to a muscle injury if it is repeated too often in repetitions with poor form.
It’s important to practice proper form while exercising so that muscles are worked evenly and efficiently without causing unnecessary strain. Good technique is essential for both safety and effective training results.
When a muscle is weak, it cannot handle the same level of strain that a stronger muscle could take. When performing activities that involve muscular effort, there is more of a chance that the weakened muscles will become exhausted and strained.
This exhaustion is caused by a decrease in the capacity for muscle contraction and can be seen in both weak and strong muscles; however, weak muscles generally experience fatigue more quickly than strong muscles. This is due to their lower overall endurance levels, meaning that they are unable to sustain contractions for long periods of time without becoming fatigued.
Additionally, weaker muscles tend to have higher lactate production rates, leading to a quicker buildup of lactic acid and an earlier onset of fatigue.
Preventing Muscle Strain
Since muscle strains are usually caused by overuse or improper use of muscles, it is important to understand how muscles work and to practice proper techniques while working out to prevent developing an injured muscle.
The following are a few tips to help avoid muscle strains as well as common treatments for muscle strain recovery.
Warm up before a workout
Warm ups before workouts are essential in preventing muscle strain. When muscles and connective tissues are warmed up properly, oxygen is circulated more efficiently throughout the body which prepares the muscles for movement. This oxygen flow also increases muscle tissue elasticity, allowing for greater flexibility during exercises which can help reduce the risk of an injured muscle.
Warm ups also help reduce the risk of further injury due to over-exertion or fatigue during a workout by gradually introducing strain on the muscles and allowing them to slowly become acclimated with the activity.
It is recommended that individuals take 10-15 minutes prior to beginning any exercise routine in order to warm up their muscles and prevent muscle strain. This can include dynamic stretching, jogging, or light-weight exercises to slowly increase the heart rate.
Strength training helps muscles build strength and reduce the risk of injury. It strengthens muscles, tendons and ligaments by providing resistance against a force or weight. This increased strength makes it easier for muscles to cope with everyday activities that can cause strain on weak muscles.
Regular strength training at least twice a week also increases flexibility, which further reduces the risk of a pulled muscle as tight muscles are more prone to tears. It also helps improve balance and coordination, which helps protect against potential trips or falls.
Strength exercises such as squats, deadlifts, press-ups, and planks target different parts of the body, so it’s important to perform a variety of strength training exercises in order to ensure an even distribution of strengthening across the body. A physical therapist can help with designing an appropriate strength training regimen.
One of the most important aspects ofexercise is to use proper form to prevent strain and maximize efficiency. Using correct form can help avoid muscle fatigue, reduce injury risks, and improve overall performance. When your muscles are not able to move through the full range of motion during exercise, they can become strained or even tear over time.
Using correct form increases muscle recruitment, meaning more muscle fibers are used during any given exercise and helps ensure that muscles are working optimally throughout the entire workout. This helps promote muscle growth and strength, allowing goals to be reached more efficiently with less risk of injury.
Good nutrition is an important element of muscle strain recovery and should not be overlooked when trying to heal after a muscle injury. Eating protein-rich foods can help to stimulate muscle repair and protein synthesis, which are essential for muscle recovery.
When muscle tissue is damaged, it requires energy to repair itself; eating protein can provide this energy. Eating a balanced diet of healthy proteins, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and adequate hydration helps to rebuild muscle fibers torn during muscle strain and provides the body with fuel that is needed for exercise. A healthy diet can also help to reduce fatigue associated with muscle strain.
Treatment of Muscle Strain
Depending on the severity of the strain, muscle strain recovery may include a combination of treatments such as rest, ice or heat therapy, compression, and elevation (RICE). Rest is essential to allow time for healing. Ice packs can help prevent swelling, reduce inflammation, and provide pain relief. Compression and elevation help reduce swelling too, but they also improve blood flow to the injured part. If a strain is severe, a doctor may recommend physical therapy to help restore the muscle’s functionality.
When a muscle strain occurs, activity levels should be modified. An alternative low impact exercise that will not put as much strain on the affected muscle may be more appropriate during healing. This can help reduce the risk of another strain and allow for a speedy recovery.
Rest is a vital part of the healing process when it comes to muscle strain. Without sufficient rest, the body cannot properly repair damaged tissue, leading to slower recovery times.
Rest helps the body to repair and rebuild muscular tissues, allowing for optimal functioning following muscle strain. During adequate rest periods, muscles heal and become stronger, reducing the risk of another strain once activity resumes.
Try to get sufficient sleep every night, at least eight hours if possible. Elevate the affected body part above heart level during sleep to allow excess fluid to drain away from the injury.
Cold and heat therapy
Ice therapy is an effective and simple therapy for strains. It helps reduce swelling and inflammation, and promotes relaxation of the inflamed area. Symptom relief from muscle strain is achieved by applying an ice pack for 10-20 minutes, every few hours for several days. Ice can be applied directly to the skin or through a thin cloth.
Use caution when applying ice. Avoid placing it directly on the skin for too long and make sure to check the skin regularly during treatment. If any discomfort is experienced, remove the ice immediately. Applied correctly, icing can be an effective way to help repair strained muscles.
Heat is used to increase blood flow to the strained muscle helping to reduce stiffness, increase blood circulation, and promote healing. Heat also relaxes spastic muscles and increases elasticity, allowing for greater flexibility and range of motion.
Therapy can be done at home or in physical therapy clinics by using various heat sources over the injured area such as an electric heating pad, a warm bath, hot packs, hydrocollator packs, infrared lamps, and ultrasound treatments.
Heat therapy is usually not recommended for new injuries that are still swelling or inflamed as it may increase pain. A doctor or physical therapist before can help determine if heat therapy should be used.
Compression increases pressure on an area to minimize swelling which occurs when excess fluid accumulates from an injury. It also restricts movement which in turn helps support damaged tissue during injury recovery.
Compression may also help reduce strain-related pain and muscle fatigue after the strain has occurred. It can help improve range of motion and flexibility following strain-related activity.
Treatment involves applying pressure to the injured muscle, usually by applying an elastic bandage. Bandages should be securely wrapped around the injured muscle at least twice a day for 15 to 20 minutes. The amount of pressure applied should be enough that it compresses the tissue but not too tight that it causes discomfort or pain or stops blood circulation. Ice can also be applied to the area for additional relief.
After therapy is complete, keep the area covered and supported with a bandage or brace to help support the healing process and protect against further damage.
Elevating the injury site helps to reduce blood flow and pressure in the area. When blood is not able to pool around an injured muscle or tendon, there is less swelling.
The reduction of swelling facilitates muscle strain recovery because it prevents additional inflammation and makes stretching or other treatments more effective.
Pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs)
Pain medication and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) reduce pain and inflammation, which is important for healing muscle strains.
They work by blocking the body’s natural pain signals from reaching the brain. This allows muscles to relax, allowing them to heal without further inflammation.
NSAIDs in particular can help improve joint mobility by reducing swelling and stiffness in the affected area.
Alternative Treatments for Muscle Strain
Massage, acupuncture, and stretching can be used with other treatments as part of an overall approach to muscle strain recovery or separately depending on the severity of the injury.
Massage can help reduce muscle tightness and spasms while increasing blood flow and circulation to the area, allowing it to heal faster.
Massage also reduces inflammation, which is key in muscle strain recovery. The increased circulation that massage brings to an area also helps tissue repair by delivering oxygen and nutrients to the injured area. Massage may decrease pain while mobilizing tissue and promoting relaxation within the body.
Acupuncture has been used for hundreds of years in traditional Chinese medicine as a means to speed up the healing process and provide relief from pain and inflammation associated with muscle strain. Acupuncture works by stimulating specific acupoints, which can help to reduce muscle tension and inflammation, improve circulation, reduce stress, and relieve pain.
A common treatment protocol may involve inserting thin needles into various points along the affected area to stimulate healing energy flow known as qi. The needles are usually left in place for around 20 minutes before being removed.
The benefits of acupuncture for muscle strain recovery can be felt immediately after the treatment, With regular treatments over a few weeks, there is usually significant improvement in muscle strain symptoms and is why a series of treatments is recommended for optimal results.
Stretching is an important part of muscle strain recovery. It helps reduce muscle tightness, restore range of motion, and improve circulation of fluids, and can also help prevent additional muscle injuries (3).
Static stretching is the most common type for muscle strain recovery and usually involves holding a specific pose for 30-60 seconds or gently stretching a muscle group until slight discomfort is felt.
Dynamic stretching involves more active movements like walking lunges, kneeling hip flexors, or shoulder circles.
To ensure that stretches are done correctly for muscle recovery, consider seeking advice from a physical therapist.
Muscle strain recovery is an important part of any exercise routine. Treating muscle strains early is key and will allow athletes to get back into their routines faster. Taking the necessary steps to speed up recovery can help with muscle restoration, reduce the risk of another strain, and improve overall sports performance.
Rest is paramount for muscle recovery as it allows the area to heal. Ice therapy and acupuncture help ease inflammation and pain. Heat therapy and light stretching help muscle recovery by increasing blood flow to the affected area. Massage helps reduce stiffness and helps speed up muscle strain recovery.
Remember that everyone’s body responds differently to treatments, so it’s best to consult a medical professional for customized plan. The right combination of physical therapy strategies can help ensure the quickest and best possible recovery results.
- Jeffrey J. Dueweke, J. J., et al. “Regeneration of Skeletal Muscle After Eccentric Injury”, J Sport Rehabil vol. 262, (2017):171-179. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1123/jsr.2016-0107
- Chennaoui, Mounir et al. “How Does Sleep Help Recovery From Exercise-Induced Muscle Injuries?.” J Sci Med Sport vol. 24,10 (2021): 982-987. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2021.05.007
- Garrett, W. E. Jr. “Muscle Strain Injuries.” Am J Sports Med vol. 24,6 Suppl (1996): S2-8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8947416/