Best ways to treat a pulled muscle
From professional football players to teenage soccer players, pulled muscles can be a real pain for just about every athlete. When the pain does not go away and athletes continue to play with a pulled muscle, it can become a nagging injury that just will not heal.
“A strain, also known as a torn or pulled muscle, is one of the most common sports injuries,” says Dr. Steven Chudik, a sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “They occur when there is an injury or tear of a muscle.”
Since pulled muscles are fairly common, many athletes do not want to take time off to allow their injury to heal. Instead, they will continue to play, which can sometimes make the injury worse.
“Minor strains that have minimal swelling and pain, do not result in joint instability, and allow normal function and movement are typically OK to play on,” explains Dr. Chudik. “However, it is best to have injuries evaluated by a physician, preferably one with training and experience in sports medicine. Without an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, recovery and return may be delayed and the injury made worse.”
Dr. Chudik recommends treating a pulled muscle using the PRICE Principle:
If athletes are experiencing pain, an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen or naproxen can also be taken. Once the patient has visited the physician, a more personalized recovery plan can be created. Depending on the severity of the pulled muscle, treatment can include active rehabilitation and physical therapy programs, which incorporate progressive stretching, mobilization, strengthening functional training and injury prevention exercises.
“These activities can help speed up recovery and allow for a safe return,” explains Dr. Chudik.
The best way to heal an injury is to avoid getting one in the first place. While no one is completely immune to strained muscles, there are six steps that athletes can take to reduce their risk. These include:
- Incorporate a conditioning and exercise program to build proper muscle strength, endurance and flexibility. Train properly for your specific sport.
- Do daily stretching exercises.
- Warm up before any sports activity with dynamic stretching and activity-specific movements such as running or throwing.
- Use or wear proper protective equipment.
- Always wear shoes that properly fit and support your feet.
- Nourish your muscles by eating a well-balanced diet and stay hydrated.
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