Whether you’ve hurt yourself playing a sport or simply moving about your day, once you find yourself in pain, it’s time to do something about it. Muscle strains and pulls are result of light damage to muscle fibers and their connected tendons. A pulled muscle can result from fatigue and overuse, from sudden overuse or over-stretching the muscle itself.
When you feel that first surge of muscle pain, it may be tempting to assume that you know the cause. The classic symptoms of muscle strain include pain with muscle use, swelling and muscle weakness.
More severe cases include pain when the muscle is resting or an inability to use the muscle at all. If you’ve pulled a muscle in the past, you might assume that you know how to treat your current injury. It is important to get properly assessed, however, in case you have a fracture that needs to be treated.
If you’re in pain and wondering how to recover from a pulled muscle, look no further—we’ve put together a guide on how to recover from a pulled muscle:
1. Rest and protect your muscles
The best way to recover from a pulled muscle is with a good amount of rest. When first injured, your muscle might go into spasm to protect itself. If your try and use a muscle in spasm, you can do further damage to the ligaments, tendons and surrounding muscle tissue.
Instead of putting your muscle under more stress, let it relax fully. If you’ve pulled a muscle in your leg, sit to let the muscles release. If you’ve hurt something in your back, try to sit or lie still, at least until any spasms have subsided.
2. Break out the ice
An age-old treatment for muscle injuries, ice application can help to achieve a number of important goals. First, it helps to reduce pain and swelling as your body rushes blood to the site of the injury. Second, when used off and on, in an alternating pattern, it can help to bring fresh blood and healing to the injured tissue.
When applying ice, remember to use moderation—try to avoid direct skin contact and instead wrap the ice in a towel or cloth. Use ice off and on, rotating in a twenty minute pattern, for optimal healing.
3. Compression helps
Treating a muscle injury with compression is a key step in minimizing your recovery time. For an ankle or leg injury, wrap the muscle lightly with compression tape or a tensor bandage. This can be an important step in early healing stages, as it reduces inflammation and supports stability.
As with icing, it is a good idea to avoid over-doing compression. You don’t want to cut off blood supply to healthy tissue, nor do you want to continue active compression beyond the initial healing period. Over the longer term, if you have recurring muscle strains in your calves or hamstrings, you may want to consider using compression clothing for active days.
4. Elevation is key
When you can manage, it is a good idea to treat a new muscle strain with elevation. Experts advise us to raise our injured tissue above the level of our hearts. This position helps to reduce swelling and protects the muscle from further damage. For leg muscles, consider lying down and propping your injured leg on a pillow or rolled towel.
5. Schedule chiropractor treatments
To have a proper assessment of your muscle strain and speed your recovery time, be sure to seek out a chiropractor with a track record of both performance and customer service. Beyond having an expert understanding of muscles and how to help them heal, a chiropractor can treat you with laser, manipulation and other techniques to speed your recovery.
6. Engage in Gentle Stretching
Once your physiotherapist agrees that your muscle is strong enough to stretch, it can be useful to engage in light stretches, in order increase blood flow and improve flexibility. It is imperative to move slowly and stay dialed-in to your body. The second you feel any pain, you should stop. After resting, you can re-try the stretch, without going to the point of pain.
7. Think About a Motion-Restricting Brace
If you have injured the muscles or tendons around your ankle, knee, elbow or back, you may benefit from using a brace for your day-to-day movements for a while. Your physiotherapist can help you choose a style of brace that would work best for you. Over time, you may only need to use the brace for strenuous activities, but it will provide you support as your body heals.
Muscle strains can happen quickly, with long-lasting effects. If you don’t treat them properly early on, you can end up with lingering, ongoing pain. If you’ve just hurt yourself, be sure to see a doctor to rule out fractures, then take these basic steps to start healing. We hope these ideas have been useful if you’ve been wondering how to recover from a pulled muscle.