Muscle Strain or Pulled Muscle?

Muscle Strain – Pulled Muscle

Have you ever wondered if you have a muscle strain? What are pulled muscle symptoms? Today we will look at what a strained muscle is and how you can tell the difference between pulling a muscle and other soft tissue injuries. There have been many times patients have come in to The North Wales Spine Clinic with lower back pain and they tell us they have pulled a muscle in their back. So is lower back pain always just a simple muscle strain? When you got out of bed or bent over to clean your teeth did it really cause little muscle tears. Read on to learn a bit more about the condition if a muscle strain.

What is a Muscle Strain?

Definition of a muscle strain: A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon in which the muscle fibres tear as a result of over-stretching.

Remember a Strain is NOT a Sprain. You strain a muscle but you sprain a ligament. A strain is also known as a pulled muscle. There are times you may think you have a pulled muscle in the lower back or a pulled muscle in your neck but it could also be a trapped nerve. You can read here different pinched nerve symptoms. So now you know that according to the definition to pull a muscle means you have created an event where tears in the muscle fibres have occurred. So a simple action of getting up from the chair with an instant back pain won’t likely be a strained muscle in the true sense because no muscle fibres were torn. What is more likely is a muscle spasm. A spasm is like a cramp, which is a strong involuntary contraction of a muscle.

So a muscular strain is muscle-fibre tears due to over-stretching. Pulled muscle strains can happen while doing normal daily tasks and are not restricted to sports and athletics. However, playing sport would place you more at risk for developing a strain because of the increased muscle use.

Pulled Muscle Symptoms

Here are some of the things you may feel or see as a typical pulled muscle symptom:

  • Localized pain and discomfort,
  • Stiffness in the muscle tissue,
  • Discolouration or bruising in and around the muscle,
  • Pain using the muscle.

How to Treat a Pulled Muscle

Many patients attend The North Wales Spine Clinic from surrounding areas such as Gwynedd, Conwy and Anglesey with pulled muscle symptoms.  Once we have ruled out other causes of pain such as slipped disc or disc problems or joint pain when treating a pulled muscle pain just try remembering the mnemonic R.I.C.E:

R – Rest

I – Ice

C – Compress

E – Elevate

R.I.C.E is the first line treatment to be done and to be carried on to help heal a strained muscle. Rest means taking the pressure of the muscle sometimes this requires bed-rest or using aids like crutches. Ice would be using a cold compress, soft ice bag or bag of frozen peas on the affected muscle to reduce swelling and act as an anti-inflammatory. Compress is using a soft bandage to act as compression to reduce the size of the swelling. Elevate means if you can raise the muscle above heart level to use gravity to drain excess inflammatory fluid away from the strain.

However, as there are different levels you can strain a muscle a simple strain will heal fine with R.I.C.E other more serious pulled muscle strains will require the opinion of a healthcare professional to advise. Also you can injury the ligaments or the bone so if you’re worried go get an opinion.

Types of Muscle Strains

As mentioned earlier there are different degrees to muscle strains therefore you can tear a muscle and so it may be classified differently.

  1. First Degree Muscle Strain – involves less than 5 percent of the muscle and is what you may feel as a mild strain.
  2. Second Degree Muscle Strain – involves the muscle fibres being torn to nearly a complete tear.
  3. Third Degree Muscle Strain – is the complete rupture and tearing of a muscle all the way.

So most people would have experienced the first-degree strain. If you see the bruising and discolouration in the muscle you are more likely to have a second or third degree tear. If you have what you think may be a muscle strain then expect it to resolve over a number of weeks, however if the problem remains and you live in Caernarfon, Bangor, Menai Bridge, Llanfairfechan, Penmaenmawr, Conwy, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno or Abergele then call us at The North Wales Spine Clinic on 01492 621380.

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