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Pulled or strained muscles are common injuries in active people. They occur when excessive demand is placed on a muscle. Clinically we find that some muscles are more susceptible to strains than others. Commonly pulled muscles include the hamstrings (back of thigh), quadriceps (front of thigh), gastrocnemius (calf) and adductors (groin).
We often get asked how to prevent muscle strains. Warming up is generally the most accepted way to prevent muscle strains. A thorough warm-up prepares the body for the demands that will be placed on it. Maintaining normal flexibility should be helpful for preventing muscle injuries but excessive stretching does not seem to provide any additional benefit.
Initial treatment of a pulled muscle involves following the RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) regime. Rest the affected area by avoiding activities that cause strain on the affected area. If the injury is severe, crutches can be used. Ice can be applied to a muscle strain to help reduce swelling and inflammation. Never apply ice directly to a muscle, always wrap the ice pack in a damp towel to protect your skin. Ice can be applied regularly, but make sure to regularly check the condition of the skin. Use a compression bandage to minimise bleeding into the tissues and elevate the area to reduce swelling. If swelling is excessive you may wish to discuss anti-inflammatory medication with your pharmacist or GP. Some inflammation is, however, necessary for tissue healing.
During this period you physiotherapist may prescribe you exercises to work surrounding muscle groups. The physiotherapists at Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic will also asses if there are any predisposing factors that could have made you susceptible to a muscle strain. This may include assessment of the biomechanics of the foot, assessment of mobility of the surrounding joint and the strength and control of the surrounding muscles. Any deficits that are highlighted can be targeted with advice, manual therapy and exercise. At a suitable time you will begin to exercise the injured muscle, appropriate exercise may provide a stimulus to help the tissue heal. Strengthening exercises, progressing onto sports specific rehabilitation will be important before you return to play. Contact us at our Dublin 4 clinic for further information.