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Uncovering the Facts of Different Types of Muscle Strain

Understanding The Severity of Your Muscle Strain

Many athletes, active lifestyle, and sedentary individuals suffer from muscular strains. Often they are confused as to why it happened to them, the severity of it, and the timeline for recovery. My goal in this short article is to clear up the confusion and give you a concise understanding of muscular strain.

To start off, strains occur to muscles and sprains happen to ligaments. For the sake of this article, we will keep it simple and discuss muscular strains. Sometimes an injury is considered a sprain/strain because there may be a strain to the muscle and a concurrent sprain of ligaments at the joint.

We will also divide muscular strains into two categories, chronic over-use, and acute traumatic strains. Many times the over-use strain confuses the patient because there is no single “event” they can pinpoint that caused their pain or injury. Whereas in a traumatic strain injury, they can say “yeah, I picked up that TV and my back went into spasm.”

So, let’s first dissect the over-use strain that is all too common and how the Cumulative Injury Cycle

Over-Use Strain (Chronic)

The Cumulative Injury Cycle

The Cumulative Injury Cycle

The Cumulative Injury Cycle represents the process in which over-use injuries and pain may occur. This cycle is not limited to any particular activity, but anything you do repetitively.

The chronic cycle begins with overwork, such as the long duration of sitting or long distance running, just to name a couple. This prolonged overwork may lead to muscular imbalances and Weak & Tense Muscles/Soft Tissue. These weak and tight muscles lead to excessive Friction, Pressure, and Tension to the local muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia. In turn, this results in Decreased Circulation and Swelling and Hypoxia (lack of oxygen) to the area. Due to this hypoxic state (lack of oxygen to an area), the formation of adhesions and scar tissue occurs to the area, which decreases the function of the local structures. This becomes a vicious cycle that over time results in weaker and more tensed muscles and soft tissue and the cycle keeps on churning until the body sends off the alarm system that something is wrong.

That alarm system comes in the form of a pain!

Now onto the dreaded acute/traumatic strain that occurs to people often, and can be extremely painful and life-altering for a stretch of time, depending on the “grade” of your strain. The below information is from the website Physiotherapy Notes, and more information can be found on their website here:

Grade I Muscle Strain

In grade I muscle strain, the muscle or tendon is overstretched. Small tears to muscle fibers may or may not occur. You may have mild pain with or without swelling. Grade I strain is also called mild muscle strain.

Grade II Muscle Strain

Also called moderate muscle strain, grade II strain occurs when the muscle or its tendon is overstretched with more of the fibers torn but not complete. Symptoms may include marked pain with swelling. The area of injury is tender. Bruising may occur if small blood vessels at the site of injury are damaged as well. The movement may be difficult because of pain.

Grade III Muscle Strain

Grade III strain, or severe muscle strain, is the most serious among the three grades of muscle strains. Most of the muscle fibers are torn. In some cases, the muscle is completely torn or ruptured. Pain, swelling, tenderness and bruising are usually present. Movement is usually difficult.

Moderate and severe muscle strains should be seen by a qualified health care provider. For grade I muscle strain, simple home remedies, such as applying RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) therapy may be just enough to manage symptoms.

Preventative Measures

Here are some corrective strategies to decrease the chances of the over-use strain or acute traumatic strain injuries. Keep in mind, even if everything is “ideal” you still may end up with strains and sprains if your sport or activity is strenuous in nature.

• Corrective exercises: This will help combat against muscular imbalances which can cause biomechanical issues and increased strain on the body.
• Micro-breaks: Break up the repetitions of your activity or sport.
• Proper Technique: Less strain on the body from optimal efficiency and performance.
• Rest and Recovery: Helps get the body back to a steady state and prevents excessive fatigue.
• Equipment: Key to performance, efficiency, and reduction of strain on the body.

Treatment Options

If a strain injury does occur, there are many treatment options one can consider in addition to the afore mentioned PRICE methods. In our office, we typically utilize traditional therapeutic modalities such as electrical muscle stimulation, taping, ice, etc. I addition, we provide 3 key treatment options that not all clinics do, and they are as follows. You can click on each one for more detailed information on them.

a. ART
b. Graston
c. Deep Tissue Laser Therapy