What To Do When You Pull A Muscle?

We’ve all been there. It can be frustrating when you pull a muscle and often it is when doing physical activity like walking or running.

Pulled muscles can occur throughout the body. Some of the most common types of pulled muscle will be the hamstring, quadriceps, calf’s or supporting muscles of the spine.

The reason the muscle will pull, or strain is because of excess stress or tension put on the muscle causing increased demand that the muscle could not handle. It doesn’t happen overnight. The stress will build up from a problem that could be completely unrelated to that muscle elsewhere in the body and that muscle is the one that has to take the stress.

For example, if you have an unstable pelvis where one side is moving more than the other, the ischial tuberosity which is the SIT bone and where the hamstring attaches on.

If this is moving a lot more and you’re going for a run or a walk, the hamstring may be able to take up some of the stress and compensate for months, maybe even years until it just says enough is enough. One run too far and the hamstring can pull, and this can be very painful.

Another example would be if the foot is overpronating, as in the arches are collapsing. This will put more stress on the Achilles which will go into the calf and then you are running up some stairs to catch a train and the Achilles overloads causing the calf to strain.

Muscles have interlocking segments and when they get stretched too far the segments will separate and this is what causes the pain. The severity is is on a grade system of one, two and three and then full tear.

Full tear takes longer to heal from. It can often require surgery. One can take between two to three weeks; grade two anywhere from two to four months and grade three is much longer.

If you have a full tear of the Achilles, this is an operation. It can take anywhere up to a year before you can get back to full changing multi-direction sport.

What is the first thing you should do when you pull a muscle?

Main thing is to stop using it. Take the pressure off the leg or the arm or the back. Rest it. Put ice on the area to reduce the inflammation and get a diagnosis from a professional to ensure that you’re not putting too much pressure back on it too early.

If you have rested it, iced it, gently mobilised it, and after two, three weeks the pain is gone, wait another week before going back to any sort of physical activity just to ensure that you don’t damage the muscle again. Just because the symptoms aren’t there doesn’t mean there’s still not an underlying problem.

If it hasn’t gone after two or three weeks, definitely seek professional help and look to get an ultrasound scan. In some more severe cases, an MRI scan will be necessary to make a diagnosis. You can get private MRI scans at the Runnymede Hospital. Otherwise, you can get on the NHS but the wait list tends to be a lot longer.

How do you prevent the muscle strain from coming back?

You need to find the root cause of the issue and then strengthen that. For example if it’s an unstable pelvis, you need to be working on your glute bridges and bird dogs to ensure the hip mobility and the pelvic stability comes back to take the strain off the hamstring. If there’s a calf issue caused by a pronation issue, then it might be worth getting orthotics or doing some of these exercises to help strengthen the arch in the foot.

Let me know which muscle you pulled and then I can try and find some root cause issues, maybe some exercises to help this in the future.

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