What to do after a Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain?

john miller physiotherapist

Article by John Miller


Sprain or Strain?

If you suffer a soft tissue injury the best advice we can give you is to...

Seek Prompt Medical Advice!

muscle strain

The research is very conclusive.  Early accurate assessment and prompt appropriate treatment is much better than delay. Plus, what may appear to be a simple muscle, ligament or soft tissue injury can include a hairline fracture, bone bruising or dislocation.

Prompt Treatment will Benefit You in many ways:

  • Less pain quicker
  • Reduced drug intake
  • Quicker return to function: eg walking, work, sport
  • Less income loss from time off work
  • Less likelihood of future recurrence.

Early Management of a Soft Tissue Injury

During the time delay before you can seek a professional opinion, then follow the tips below: 

soft tissue injury

Rest?

Rest from painful exercise or a movement is essential in the early injury stage. We call this active rest. "No pain. No gain." does not apply in most cases.  The rule of thumb is - don't do anything that reproduces your pain for the initial two or three days.  After that, you need to get it moving or other problems will develop. If you are unsure what to do, please contact your physiotherapist for injury-specific advice.

Ice or Heat?

Ice

Ice is preferred for the initial two or three days post-injury. Apply ice for 20 minutes each two to three hours for the first few days until the "heat" comes out of the injury. Ice should also help to reduce your pain and swelling in traumatic soft tissue injuries, such as ligament sprains, muscle tears or bruising.

Heat

It is preferable to avoid heat (and heat rubs) in the first 48 hours of injury. The heat encourages bleeding, which could be detrimental if used too early. Once the "heat" has come out of your injury, heat packs can be used to stimulate blood flow. We recommend 20 minute applications a few times a day to increase the blood flow and hasten your healing rate. Heat will also help your muscles relax and ease your pain. Heat Wheat Packs are an excellent home solution for a multitude of conditions.

Heat

Should You Use a Compressive Bandage / Support?

Yes. If it is possible to apply a compressive bandage or elastic support to the injury, it will help to control swelling and bleeding in the first few days.  In most cases, the bandage/support will also help to support the injury as the new scar tissue is laid down. This should help to reduce your pain.

Some injuries will benefit from more support such as a brace or rigid strapping tape. Please contact your physiotherapist if you are uncertain what is best for you.

Elevation?

Elevation of an injury in the first few days is very helpful. Think where your injury is and where your heart is. Gravity will encourage swelling to settle at the lowest point.  Try to rest your injury above your heart. Obviously some injuries are impossible or it would be detrimental to elevate, so please use your common sense and be guided by your pain.

When Should You Commence Treatment? 

In most cases, "the early bird gets the worm".  Researchers have found that intervention of physiotherapy treatment for acute soft tissue injuries within a few days has many benefits. 

Prompt Treatment Benefits include:

  • Relieving your pain quicker via joint mobility techniques, soft tissue massage, electrotherapy etc
  • Improving your scar tissue quality using techniques to guide the direction it forms
  • Getting you back to sport or work quicker through faster healing rates
  • Loosening or strengthening of your injured region with individually prescribed exercises and techniques
  • Improving your performance when you do return to sport, work or simply daily life
  • Correct any biomechanical faults that may be affecting your movement, technique or predisposing you to injury.

What If You Do Nothing?

Research tells us that injuries left untreated do take longer to heal and have lingering pain.

They are also more likely to recur and leave you with:

  • abnormal scar tissue formation
  • joint stiffness
  • muscle weakness

It's important to remember that symptoms lasting longer than three months become habitual and are much harder to solve.  The sooner you get on top of your symptoms the better your outcome.

For professional advice that best suits your specific injury needs, please consult your physiotherapist.

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Common Muscle Injuries

  • Achilles Tendon Rupture
  • Achilles Tendonitis / Tendinitis
  • Back Muscle Pain
  • Calf Muscle Tear
  • Corked Thigh
  • Cramps
  • DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Golfers Elbow
  • Groin Strain
  • Hamstring Strain
  • Muscle Strain (Muscle Pain)
  • Neck Headache
  • Overuse Injuries
  • Poor Hip Core
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Rotator Cuff Tear
  • RSI - Repetitive Strain Injury
  • Shin Splints
  • Side Strain (Abdominal)
  • Thigh Strain
  • Common Ligament Injuries

  • AC Joint Injury
  • ACL Injury
  • Back Muscle Pain
  • Cramps
  • Dislocated Shoulder
  • High Ankle Sprain
  • Knee Ligament Injuries
  • Muscle Strain (Muscle Pain)
  • Neck Headache
  • Overuse Injuries
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sprained Ankle
  • Thumb Sprain
  • Common Muscle & Ligament Treatments

  • Early Injury Treatment
  • Avoid the HARM Factors
  • What to do after a Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain?
  • Acupuncture and Dry Needling
  • Sub-Acute Soft Tissue Injury Treatment
  • Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises
  • Active Foot Posture Correction Exercises
  • Gait Analysis
  • Biomechanical Analysis
  • Balance Enhancement Exercises
  • Proprioception & Balance Exercises
  • Agility & Sport-Specific Exercises
  • Medications?
  • Soft Tissue Massage
  • Walking Boot
  • Brace or Support
  • Electrotherapy & Local Modalities
  • Heat Packs
  • Kinesiology Tape
  • Neurodynamics
  • Prehabilitation
  • Running Analysis
  • Strength Exercises
  • Stretching Exercises
  • Supportive Taping & Strapping
  • TENS Machine
  • Video Analysis
  • Yoga
  • FAQs about Muscle & Ligament Injuries

  • Common Physiotherapy Treatment Techniques
  • What is Pain?
  • Physiotherapy & Exercise
  • Which PhysioWorks Clinics Offer Remedial Massage?
  • How Does Massage Help You?
  • Massage Styles and their Benefits
  • How Does Kinesiology Tape Reduce Swelling?
  • What Causes Post-Exercise Muscular Pain?
  • Heat Packs. Why does heat feel so good?
  • Post-Run Soreness: Should You Be Concerned?
  • Rotator Cuff: What is it?
  • Running Recovery: 6 Helpful Tips
  • Sports Injury? What to do? When?
  • What are Common Adolescent / Children Leg Injuries?
  • What are the Common Massage Therapy Techniques?
  • What are the Early Warning Signs of an Injury?
  • What is a TENS Machine?
  • What is Chronic Pain?
  • What is Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy?
  • What is Nerve Pain?
  • What is Sports Physiotherapy?
  • What to expect when you visit PhysioWorks?
  • What's the Benefit of Stretching Exercises?
  • When is the Best Time for a Pre-Event Massage?
  • When is the Best Time for Your Post-Event Recovery Massage?
  • Useful Products for Muscle & Ligament Injuries

    Muscle Tears

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    Last updated 27-Aug-2016 06:09 PM

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