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Should you Stretch a Muscle Strain? Why You Might Want to See a Physiotherapist

Armin Ghayyur

Armin Ghayyur

Did you know that over 10% of people from each region across Canada use physiotherapy each year? And muscle strains are one of the most common muscle injuries, affecting millions of people each year.

It’s always best to learn how to stretch and care for a muscle strain in the comfort of your own home. But if the pain continues or is severe, you may need to see a physiotherapist.

Sometimes you need help with muscle strains, and you can’t always go it alone. So keep reading this guide to find out everything you need to know about stretching muscle strains and physiotherapy.

Should You Stretch a Muscle Strain?

When you have a muscle strain, you have an injury to your muscle or tendon. Strains can be minor where they overstretch the muscle, or they can be severe and involve complete or partial tears to your muscle tissues.

Muscle strain causes include:

  • A slip
  • From throwing a heavy object
  • From lifting something heavy
  • Moving awkwardly
  • Poor flexibility
  • Not warming up before a physical activity
  • Repetitive activities

While it may seem like you need to stretch your strained muscle immediately, don’t do this! Stretching a muscle immediately after a muscle strain only makes things worse. Your best bet is to rest the area and only start with light stretching 2 to 3 days after the injury occurs.

Classifying Muscle Strains

According to the number of damaged fibres, a system classifies muscle strains from grade one to three.

Grade 1 is a mild strain, only affecting a small number of fibres in the muscle. With a grade 1 strain, there is no decreased strength or limited motion.

A grade 2 strain is a moderate strain, affecting almost half of the affected muscle fibres. You’ll notice significant pain, swelling, and a slight decrease in muscle strength with a grade 2 strain.

Finally, a grade 3 strain is the most severe, resulting in the complete rupture of your muscle into two parts. Severe pain, swelling, and loss of function are common with this type of strain.

Addressing Risk Factors

Strained muscles frequently occur in athletes but can happen anytime to anybody. Most of the time, muscle strains heal after some rest and recuperation, but other times they can be quite severe. Risk factors for muscle strains include:

  • Muscle tightness
  • Poor muscle conditioning
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Muscle imbalance
  • Old age
  • Adolescence

If you’re an athlete that plays soccer, football, cross country, or dancing, then you’re at even higher risk for muscle strains.

Reducing Re-Injury Rates

After you have a muscle strain, there are things you can do to reduce the chances of re-injury dramatically. 

First, develop a fitness plan that includes a combination of cardiovascular exercise as well as strength training. Then, alternate the muscle groups you exercise at least every other day.

You’ll also need to make sure you warm-up and cool down properly before and after your sporting events. You should take at least 2 to 3 minutes to stretch your muscles to prevent stiffness gently.

When you stretch, stretch slowly until you reach the point of muscle tension and then relax. You should never feel pain while you’re stretching.

Always stay hydrated and wear the right fitting shoes and equipment to provide the support you need.

And two main things you can do to prevent re-injury are to get adequate rest when you’re tired and take the time to recover fully from past injuries. You never want to rush your recovery, or you will rush your re-injury as well.

How to Treat a Pulled Muscle

For severe muscle injuries, you’ll need to follow up with your doctor. Your doctor can assess the area of your injury and may also order X-rays or ultrasounds to assess the injured area closely. You can expect your doctor to as you:

  • How exactly the injury occurred
  • If you felt a pop or a snap
  • When the injury happened
  • Have you ever had this type of injury before
  • When this injury occurred

In most cases, you can treat your muscle strain with a series of self-care tips that include rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Ice, Compress and Elevate

Even if you seek medical attention, the first and most important thing is to ice the injured area immediately. You can use an ice pack or a bath of ice water and ice the area for 15 to 20 minutes each time, repeating every 2 to 3 hours.

To help reduce the swelling, you’ll need to compress the area with a bandage until the swelling stops. Make sure not to wrap it too tightly, or you’ll affect the blood circulation to the area. It’s best to start wrapping the injury area that is farthest from the heart.

Next, you’ll need to keep the injured area elevated, preferably above your heart level, to reduce swelling.

Physical Therapy

Have you ever wondered what physiotherapists treat? Physical therapists are experts at evaluating and treating musculoskeletal injuries and issues like:

  • Back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder impingement
  • Headaches
  • Strains and sprains
  • Post-surgical recovery
  • Recovery from a motor vehicle accident

Physical therapists can also treat a range of conditions from shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and tennis elbow. Benefits of physical therapy include reduced pain, improved mobility, faster recovery, improved balance, and muscle strength.

Many doctors recommend physical therapy to help you moving again safely. In addition, physical therapy is an extremely effective tool in treating muscle strains and sprains.

It’s best to book an appointment for physiotherapy with professionals like Easy Allied Health. Remember, nobody is the same, so you need a customized treatment plan to treat your uniqueness and muscle strain injury.

A good physical therapy treatment plan will include pain management, rehabilitation, education, and exercises to slowly improve your flexibility and range of motion. They’ll also provide you with a custom exercise for you to do at home.

Heat Therapy

Heat therapy is an effective way to relieve pain after the initial injury swelling has improved. Heat increases the blood flow to your muscles, which promotes healing.

You can use therapeutic heat therapy in your home by using hot washcloths, hot water bottles, electric heating pads, or soaking in a warm bath. Always be sure to pay attention to the amount of heat you’re using, and apply heat for no more than 15 minutes at a time to prevent burns.

Massage

A therapeutic massage can help loosen tight muscles and increase blood flow to your damaged tissues. Massage is an important component of your post-injury recovery. 

Massage also helps remove the lactic acid buildup and break up the damaged scar tissue you have leftover.

The best type of massage for a muscle strain is a deep tissue massage. A deep tissue massage makes use of deep pressure applied to sore muscles and tendons.

A sports massage is also a great option if you have a muscle strain from repetitive use due to sports. A sports massage can reduce pain, muscle tension, anxiety and promote flexibility. 

Many people also find relief from muscle strain soreness from a hot stone massage. Heated stones are used to reduce muscle tension, promote relaxation, and relieve pain.

Compression

Even after the initial injury phase or rest, ice, elevation, and compression, it’s still a good idea to keep the injured area wrapped while you heal.

Use an elastic bandage to compress the area after you have physical therapy, massage or after you use heat therapy. Keeping compression on the area after therapy will help to keep any additional swelling away.

How Long Does It Take a Pulled Muscle to Heal

Recovery can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks for a mild muscle strain using basic home care measures.

For severe muscle strains, recovery may require surgical repair and physical therapy and may take up to 6 months to make a full recovery.

Key Takeaways

After a muscle strain, the key takeaways to remember are to rest, ice, compress, and elevate immediately. And seek medical treatment for severe pain or inflammation.

And never underestimate the importance of seeing a physical therapist. While many muscle strains can seem insignificant at first, you could face long-term and even chronic pain if they don’t heal properly. So take your muscle strains seriously, and find the help you need. 

Remember, adequate rest and therapy are key to recovery and preventing future injuries from reoccurring.

See a Physiotherapist

When you need to see a physiotherapist, then look no further than Easy Allied Health. The professionals at Easy Allied Health are experts in physical, occupational, and chiropractic therapy.

We’ve served thousands of patients and are dedicated to putting your needs and health first. We believe quick and easy access to therapists gives you back the quality of life you deserve.

So make sure you contact us today for a pain-free tomorrow!

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