A muscle strain is a tear of a certain degree to a muscle or tendon. It can happen to any muscle in the body as long as there is a weak spot in one of those fibres. Muscle strains can result in either acute or chronic tears. An acute tear is a new and fresh one. A chronic tear is an old wound that keeps re-tearing, usually from our activities of daily living.
Either from underuse of a muscle and then putting a heavy strain on it and/or overuse can lead to a muscle strain. Classic examples of this would be a computer worker of many years attempting to lift heavy weights -- often times they will not know which weak muscle groups to exercise and may use their joints and muscles improperly to execute a motion, often resulting in injury. Another is a professional sports player continuously training in between his or her games without doing proper stretches, resting or rehab activities (such as massage, sauna..etc.) Without resting, the muscles become overused, which can result in a spasm or even worse a complete rupture.
Maintenance -- this is my favourite word when educating clients about health from my perspective as a registered massage therapist....maintenance. Itʼs a very general term but it does not have to be confusing in any way of how to do it.
Besides eating well, it is very important to stay hydrated to keep your muscles supple....and then contract them, and lengthen them. Thatʼs it. Muscles love to be challenged; they really do. It is what they were created to do -- to contract, and to stretch. Safe and even contractions produce even muscle toning (where all of the muscle fibres targeted graze over each other smoothly), as opposed to stiffening up in one spot (while the strongest fibre executes most of the motion all by itself) So contract safely. How? Start with small weights and do individual muscle contractions slowly with deep breathes and small repetitions (as a start) to get that even muscle tone. The key thing to always consider when revisiting this journey is to always do it safely.
If you need more help on which exercises to do that are best for you, book a session with a manual therapist or a trainer. As an R.M.T., I do thorough assessments before every treatment to get a better picture of what is happening to a personʼs structure. After treatment, I give individual exercises to do at home to help prevent muscle strains.
If the muscle strain is fresh and minor, use the principle of PRICE (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate) Immobilize the area for a short while, rest it, ice it in a wrapped towel, put a gentle pressure on it and elevate it a bit to keep any swelling down. Massage can help reduce the swelling as well.
Do not stretch a freshly strained muscle as the muscle is already ʻpulledʼ so stretching before the repair stage will make it worse.
If the strain has been around for a while and is still minor (subacute stage) perform gentle and pain-free stretches to the muscles with some heat. Massage promotes blood flow to the compromised area to help with any repairs. Essential oils can also be used to help lessen the recovery time.
If the strain is major and has a lot of swelling or skin discolouration, first consult with your doctor to get the best advise and recommendations for your case. You should always ask them if massage is safe to do with your registered massage therapist to start the rehab process for better outcomes.