Sprain or Strain?
If you suffer a soft tissue injury, the best advice we can give you is to…
Seek Prompt Medical Advice!
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: e.g. 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:
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 get in touch with your physiotherapist for injury-specific advice.
Ice or Heat?
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.
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.
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 support the injury as the new scar tissue is laid down. This should help to reduce your pain.
Elevation of an injury in the first few days is beneficial. 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 the 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 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.
Muscle Pain Injuries
Myalgia, or muscle pain, can have many sources. Here are some of the more common sources of muscle pain. Would you please click the links for more information?
Neck & Back Muscle Injuries
Lower Limb Muscle Injuries
Upper Limb Muscle Injuries
Systemic Causes of Myalgia
More Information: Myalgia
Article by John Miller
Muscle Strain Treatment
Muscle strain treatment will vary depending upon an accurate diagnosis from your health professional. The severity of your muscle strain, and what function or loads your injured muscle will need to cope with, will impact the length of your healing and rehabilitation process.
Until you’ve been accurately diagnosed with a muscle strain, use the following guidelines:
- Ice and a compression bandage.
- Elevate the injured region if it is swollen.
- If it’s painful to walk you should be using crutches.
- Cease or reduce your exercise or activity level to where you feel no pain.
Muscle strain can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to rehabilitate successfully. Please seek the advice of your physiotherapist, doctor or your health care practitioner who specialises in muscle injuries eg massage therapist, to guide your treatment.
Common Treatments for Muscle Strain
The following options are available to your physiotherapist to assist the rehabilitation of your muscle strain. Please seek their professional advice prior to self-managing your injury to avoid aggravating your muscle strain. These are general guidelines only and should not be treated as individual treatment advice.
Acute Muscle Strain Treatment
Subacute Muscle Strain Treatment
- Sub-Acute Soft Tissue Injury Treatment
- Acupuncture and Dry Needling
- Soft Tissue Massage
- Kinesiology Tape
- Supportive Taping & Strapping
- Electrotherapy & Local Modalities
- Heat Packs
Later Stage Muscle Strain Treatment Options
- Foam Roller
- Stretching Exercises
- Strength Exercises
- Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises
- Eccentric Exercises
- Proprioception & Balance Exercises
- Agility & Sport-Specific Exercises
Other Factors to Consider
- Biomechanical Analysis
- Joint Mobilisation Techniques
- Gait Analysis
- Running Analysis
- Video Analysis