There are different ways to identify the symptoms and causes of muscle injury or strains. Muscle strain or a “pulled muscle” occurs when a muscle or tendon is either overstretched or torn. Various muscles become fatigued when you work out, which results in you causing microscopic damage to muscle cells. Almost all workouts, especially difficult ones, stress the body.
Most, if not all types of athletic activity carries some risk of muscle strains. A common misconception is that only sports, exercises and workouts of high intensity cause muscle injury. However, beyond the realm of sports and fitness, a lot people often experience muscle and tissue damage not necessarily linked to such activities.
In this article we share with you some of the grades, symptoms and causes of muscle injury, as well as some tips on prevention.
The Different Grades of Muscle Injury
The severity of a muscle strain can be assessed by the range of motion and strength a person loses. This assessment also provides an idea as to the recovery duration. To help simplify diagnosis and treatment, muscle strains are often classified into three grades, depending on the severity of muscle damage:
- Grade I: In this category only a few muscle fibers are stretched or torn. Damage to individual muscle fibers is often mild. Although the injured muscle is tender and painful, it has normal strength and causes minimal loss of strength and motion.
- Grade II: In this category, there is extensive damage to a greater number of muscle fibers. However, the muscle is not completely ruptured. This is a moderate strain, with mild swelling, more severe muscle pain and tenderness. There is also significant loss of strength and motion and sometimes a bruise. Injuries of this degree may require two to three months for recovery.
- Grade III: This strain tears the muscle all the way through, sometimes causing a complete rupture of a muscle or tendon. This type of muscle injury usually causes the muscle to rip into two separate pieces and creates an obvious dent. They are considered serious injuries that cause complete loss of muscle function, pain, swelling, tenderness and discoloration. These injuries may sometimes require surgery to reattach the damaged muscles.
Causes of Muscle Injury or Strain
As mentioned above, the grades of muscle injuries range from mild to acute. An acute muscle strain occurs when your muscle tears suddenly and unexpectedly. Such tears can occur from trauma. Some of the causes of muscle injury can be due to:
- No proper warm up before exercise or sports activities
- poor conditioning
- Overusing a muscle or overexertion
- Poor Posture
- Lifting a very heavy object
- Lifting objects improperly
What are the Symptoms of Muscle Strain?
The various symptoms of muscle injury include:
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Decrease in muscle strength/ Muscle weakness
- A gap, dent or other defect in the normal outline of the muscle (in Grade III strain)
- Tenderness and muscle pain after an activity that stretches or contracts your muscle
- Bruising, muscle swelling or discoloration at injury site
- Difficulty and pain when using the affected muscle
- Complete loss of muscle function (Grade 3 injury)
How to Prevent Muscle Strain or Injury
Listed below are some basic precautions that can help prevent or reduce the likelihood of muscle strains. They include:
- Do not sit in a position for a prolonged time. It helps to alternate your position as this can help decrease stress on your back muscles.
- Warm up before engaging in sports and workout activities.
- Introduce stretching routines into your exercise program to help strengthen your muscles.
- Increase the intensity of your workout or athletic training gradually. For example, with weight training, you want your body to somewhat become accustomed to the current weight before leveling up. Never push yourself too hard, too soon.
- Obesity or being overweight can put stress on your muscles, especially your legs and back. So try to maintain a healthy weight.
- Practice and maintain good posture when you sit and stand.When you sit, use a chair that provides good support for your lower back.
- Try to lift objects carefully. Use the correct technique when lifting heavy objects. Keep your back straight and bend at the knees. Try to hold the weight close to your body. It is not advisable to lift and twist at the same time.
- Take precautions like holding handrails on stairways and also avoid running on slippery surfaces.