Muscle tears are a common injury that can happen to anyone, from athletes to older people.
Muscle tears may occur doing various daily tasks but are more common during strenuous exercise or other physical activity such as hiking, jumping, and even working in the garden or carrying heavy loads during housework.
Due to the extensive mechanical stress, muscle fibers tear, leaving the person in pain and reduced range of motion.
A torn muscle can be affected by a mild or severe injury and might take from a few weeks to months of recovery. That's why it's crucial to take measures to prevent those injuries as well as consult a professional and follow rehabilitation protocols.
Let's take a closer look at the symptoms, risk factors, treatment, and prevention of torn muscles.
What is a Muscle Tear?
Muscle tear is damage to a muscle or its attaching tendons that occurs due to pressure to muscles. It can happen either during sports or performing various everyday activities, with sudden heavy lifting or the overuse of the muscles.
Torn muscles most often occur in the hamstrings, shoulders, neck, calves, and lower back but are not limited to that.
Among the common injuries are:
Muscle strain in leg
A torn muscle in back
A torn muscle in the shoulder
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Calf muscle strain
Abdominal muscle strain
Just like most injuries, torn muscles can be categorized into mild, moderate, and severe. This depends on the severity of the injury of the muscle fibers, mild affecting 5% or less of the muscle's fibers, moderate around 30%, and with such symptoms as pain, swelling, and decreased range of motions.
Severe tears are complete tears and manifest in extensive swelling, bleeding, bruising, and pain.
Torn muscle risk factors
Muscle damage can affect both muscle fibers and the tendons attached to the muscle as well as small blood vessels.
The most common risk factors include poor posture, lack of muscle strength, lifting improperly or too heavy, overusing a muscle, not warming up before working out, decreased flexibility, fatigue, and old age.
Torn Muscle Symptoms
When it comes to muscle tears, even the mildest ones, the patient notices the symptoms right away.
Whether it's a torn calf, hamstring tear, abdominal muscle strain, or any other body part, muscle tear symptoms include spasms, swelling, pain, and soreness of the affected area.
If the torn muscle is severely affected, there might also be stiffness, bruises, discoloration, and difficulty moving.
With acute injuries that happen during exercise, accidents like falling, and injuries due to heavy lifting, there might be a popping sound and a visible gap or dent in the outline of the muscle.
However, if the muscle tear occurs due to overuse, these symptoms could take weeks and get from mild to severe.
Symptoms of a muscle tear:
Weakness of the muscle or joint
Inability to use the muscle
How to Prevent Muscle Tears?
It is, of course, always preferred to prevent torn muscle over treatment of the injury and rehabilitation.
One of the most important things is learning warm-up techniques and performing them before all workouts and physical activities.
Another key point that is often difficult for people is to know the body's limits and not push over them. Going to the extremes often leads to overexertion and eventually torn muscles.
Here's what you can do to prevent muscle tears:
Start the day with 10-15 minute stretches
Ask your doctor or physical therapist to create an exercise program for you
Stretch before and after each workout
Always warm up before any strenuous physical activity
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Always hydrate during exercise
Recovery from Torn Muscle
If you're experiencing any torn muscle symptoms, immediately see a doctor.
The doctor will examine your medical history and perform a physical exam to establish whether the muscle is partially or completely torn.
X-rays or lab tests might also be done, but they're not always needed.
After that, it is always very helpful to work with a physical therapist who will create an individual rehabilitation program. Check the benefits of physical therapy here.
The rehabilitation will help alleviate the pain, swelling, and inflammation will help your body heal, regain the range of motion and reduce the risk of potential future injuries.
If you've experienced a minor tear or strain, you will be recommended the R.I.C.E. treatment, which is rest, ice, compression, and elevation. To manage pain and swelling, you'll probably be recommended NSAIDs – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
If the torn muscle in the back, torn muscle in the shoulder, torn hip flexor, or any other tear is mild, the treatment is usually the same, but it takes longer to recover.
You may also need hands-on physical therapy such as manual stretching or tapping. Find here about all the kinds of physical therapy.
You might also need assistive devices to help stabilize the muscle, especially if it affects one of the limbs, such as crutches or a wheelchair, sling, or a brace.
Lastly, severe tears might require surgical repair.
Self-care at home
Besides professional help, you will also need to take special care of your torn muscle and rehabilitation at home.
There are things that can help manage the swelling, bleeding into the muscles, pain, and other discomforts.
Here are the first steps:
Keep the torn muscle in a stretched position and keep applying ice packs.
Ice the area for 20-30 minute periods every hour or so. You can use medical ice packs or, e.g., frozen vegetable packages that you already have.
Protect the muscle for additional injury, don't overuse it, limit any strenuous activities, and rest as much as you can.
Compression might help decrease swelling and support muscle rest, so you can apply an elastic bandage to the injured area, but don't keep it too tight.
If possible, elevate the injured area by propping it up while lying down or sitting.
Take painkillers such as ibuprofen to manage pain.
Do no harm
While there are things you can do, there are also some activities you shouldn't do too to avoid additional harm. Remember to avoid heat, alcohol, running, and massage.
Any of these activities might slow down the healing, cause more swelling, bleeding, and pain.
Once you start feeling better, though, you can start stretching your muscle very carefully. Do some light stretches every day and track your progress.
After some time, you'll be ready for exercise, but take it slowly and always warm up before any workout, stretch after it, and don't overdo it.
Muscles tears can happen to anyone during strenuous activity such as exercising, sudden sharp movements, hard physical labor, and various accidents. They can also occur due to weak muscles, old age, poor posture, and very commonly lack of warm-up before physical activities.
To prevent these types of injuries, it's vital to stretch and exercise regularly, know the body's limits, follow a healthy diet, and hydrate.
After such injury occurs, the first course of action is resting, icing the area, and keeping it elevated. To manage pain, pain killers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can be used.
Depending on the severity of the injury, the recovery might take from a few weeks to a few months.
Consult a physical therapist or contact us at the Miracle Rehab Clinic to find about the best treatment plan for you.