What is Muscle Strain?
When musclular or tendinous tissue is stretched and torn an inflammatory response is triggered. The complex of damage and response is called a strain. They can occur as a result of one severe trauma, usually when a contracted muscle is forcefully stretched, or from a series of very small, even microscopic tears.
They can occur:
- in a muscle belly (common in hamstrings, abdominals)
- at a musculo-tendinous junction (e.g. gastrocnemius)
- in a tendon (e.g. supraspinatus)
- at a tendino-periosteal junction (eg. adductor longus)
They are usually acute and, because muscle tissue is well supplied with blood, heal well.
A mild strain (grade I) will be painful on momvement but there will be little or no loss of strength. A more severe strain (grade II) will cause a loss of strength and mobility. The most severe strains (grade III) involve a complete rupture of a tendon. These cases present with obvious deformity and usually require surgical repair.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Localized pain at site of strain - worse on movement (especially active resisted)
- No pain in mid range of passive movement
- Tenderness at site of strain
- Loss of strength in more severe cases
- Swelling and heat if strain is severe
- A history of trauma or intense activity followed by the onset of symptoms.
Acupuncture is indicated for treatment of muscle strains.
In the first 24-48 hours the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) protocol should be used.
Reduce regular exercise or activities of daily living as needed. Your health care provider may advise you to put no weight on an injured area for 48 hours. If you cannot put weight on an ankle or knee, crutches may help. If you use a cane or one crutch for an ankle injury, use it on the uninjured side to help you lean away and relieve weight on the injured ankle.
Apply an ice pack to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, 4 to 8 times a day. A cold pack, ice bag, or plastic bag filled with crushed ice and wrapped in a towel can be used. To avoid cold injury and frostbite, do not apply the ice for more than 20 minutes.
Compression of an injured ankle, knee, or wrist may help reduce swelling. Examples of compression bandages are elastic wraps, special boots, air casts, and splints. Ask your provider for advice on which one to use, and how tight to safely apply the bandage.
If possible, keep the injured ankle, knee, elbow, or wrist elevated on a pillow, above the level of the heart, to help decrease swelling.
In the sub-acute stage Acupuncture and Moxibustion (heat) may be applied by an Acupuncturist.
Advanced Practitioner Information:
The following information is suitable for students and practitioners of Acupuncure/TCM and contains content which requires advanced knowledge in this field.
> Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment for Muscle Strain.
This information has been used with permission from Close to the Bone by David Legge.
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