What is a Muscle Strain or Tear?

With the recent completion of the Gold Coast Commonwealth games, it seems a good time to talk about muscle injuries.

Muscle strains and tears don’t only effect elite athletes, they more often effect regular people like you and I. This can be whether you’re physically active or not, even with good nutrition and/or exercise. They may occur from sports injuries or even household chores.

Muscle strains and tears can happen at different parts of the muscle. Muscles include the muscle belly (the moving part), the tendons that join the muscle to the bone and the origin and insertion points of the muscle. Injuries can occur in any of these areas.

Grades of Muscle Tear

There are three grades of muscle strain and tear. They are categorised as follows:
  • Grade I Tears

Less than 10% of the fibres are torn, this is called overstretching.

  • Grade II Tears

10-50% of the muscle fibres are involved, this is called a partial tear.

  • Grade III Tears

Over 50% of fibres involved, this is called an extensive tear or complete rupture.

Treatment Plans

Consider seeing a Chiropractor to help manage these injuries when they occur. Chiropractors deal with possible joint involvement, especially the spine, that may be due to the actual injury, or from compensations caused by the muscle imbalance caused by the injury.

The first 24-72 hours – immobilise and use RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation).

This may be a few days for Grade I and II strains or from 10 days up to many weeks for Grade III. The goal here is to achieve maximum, normal contraction and stretching of the muscle. To start with the range may be limited and severe strains may need to be done in water eg aquatherapy.

Once a normal range of motion has been restored, resistance exercises can begin.

Slowly introduce movements used in a sport or activity.

This conditioning phase is important and should include plenty of stretching and strengthening.

Should I use Hot or Cold Treatment?

Use whichever gives the most relief. Cold is better for an acute injury and heat is better for muscle pain and relaxation. Alternating hot and cold sometimes gets a better result.

Moist heat is better than dry heat, but heat is not recommended if you have decreased sensation or poor circulation. It shouldn’t be used over acute injuries or malignancies. Use for between 20-30 minutes.

Usually, ice or cold should not be used for more than 10-15 minutes at a time with an hour between uses. Ice packs are good for acute sprains in the first 24-72 hours. Hot and cold feels better with muscle pain eg neck and low back pain. Cold shouldn’t be used with poor sensation or circulation, swollen veins or open wounds.

Don’t forget to Speak to a Chiropractor

Don’t forget to ask your chiropractor or health professional for advice and treatment to help with your injury.

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