Biggest mistakes in managing muscle strains:

The New Year has started with a bang – literally! So many patients through my door have had muscle strains and tears relating to their holiday festivities.

A muscle strain is usually felt as a “pop”, “snap” or sudden acute pain in a muscle (as opposed to in a joint). We grade you on a 1, 2, or 3 severity based on the level of disability you may have afterwards. Pain, swelling, limited movement and loss of function are the key characteristics. Anyone from athletes, amateur sports people, club level sports people or weekend warriors may get one.

Almost all of my patients have made some crucial mistakes in the immediate management of their muscle strains. Subsequently, most people go on to make mistakes in the mid-longer term management of these injuries also.

Because of this I wanted to share with you the 5 biggest mistakes people make when managing their muscle strains and tears.

  1. Failure to follow R.I.C.E in the early stages

  • R – REST – avoid stressing your injury further

  • I – ICE – a necessary pain relief and swelling reducing technique – 4-5 x 20-30 min bouts in the first 48 hours. DO NOT APPLY HEAT!

  • C – COMPRESSION – apply bandage or tubigrip stocking around the injured tissue. A necessary reducer of swelling

  • E – ELEVATION – lift the injured region above chest level – aids with swelling reduction and improves general limb circulation

R.I.C.E Image

  1. DO NOT use anti-inflammatories in the initial stage of injury

Do not use topical or oral anti-inflammatory medications. There is a natural inflammatory reaction that occurs in your body when you sustain a muscle tear. This process underpins the eventual healing phase. You don’t want to interfere with this!

  1. Failure to get diagnosis/management

Most muscle strains improve a lot in the first few days – thus people make the mistake of leaving the problem to mend itself. Diagnosis and an appropriate management program can achieve pain relief, faster muscle repair and improved function.  Please Contact Us  if you have an injury that requires management. In severe cases diagnosis is important as it may mean more suitable management such as injection or surgery.

  1. Poor attention to rehabilitation

In the event that you have a rehab program it must be carried through till your physio is satisfied. In general pain does not equate well to function – meaning you can still have a muscle that doesn’t work well but have no pain associated with it. Full strength and flexibility must be regained before you progress back to sport/higher level function

  1. Return to sport too early

This is the classic cause of a recurrent muscle strain. Even after a severe strain most of the pain can be gone in under two weeks but it will take a further 4-5 weeks of correct rehab to get the muscle to a point where it is ready for high level function. General guidelines for return to sport are as follows

Grade 1 strain – 2 weeks

Grade 2 strain – 2-4 weeks

Grade 3 strain – 4-8 weeks

I have some great ideas on short – mid term strengthening for muscle strains also. If you guys need any help with this shoot me an email and I will help out.


Regards David Coombs