I pulled a muscle yesterday….what do I do now?
My first response to this is always RICE: get it rested and some ICE on it to calm it down as it will be very sore right now.
There’s a huge misconception that icing helps bring the swelling down…it doesn’t, it just helps calm the area and reduces the pain you’re going through.
The body must start the recovery process from the trauma you have just sustained, so that you can heal properly. For this to work and for you to get the best recovery my recommendation is to rest and ice for 3-4 days after the injury. This is a vital time for the body to heal and then it can recover more effectively in the next few days and weeks.
After 4 days then start to get moving and stretched it out gently. For a hamstring or groin strain then a gentle walk or even a slow jog would be beneficial to help stretch it. As a treating therapist this is also the prime time to come in and get treatment.
Scar tissue is starting to be laid down soon so it is vital you use the muscle gently so that it aligns with the original muscle tissue. If you don’t the scar tissue instead of it being realigned can set like cement, which is then going to re-tear another time when you get back to your normal exercise or sports. This period is also where you would slowly progress the exercises you do and intensity of your walks or runs so that it’s not a ‘big jump’ back to competition.
The biggest single mistake I see is people resting till it feels ok and then returning…..it’s only 50-60% recovered at this stage and needs a lot more preparing it for the return to sport.
Typically 3-4 weeks for a ‘good’ muscle tear is average for you to return to the levels of exercise you were pre-injury. Any earlier and you’ll be feeling ‘ok’ and wanting to ‘give it a go’. From my own experience of previous calf pulls……DON’T! You might get away with it first time but it will go the second time! And even after you play your first training session or game or even finish you first run its going to feel sore and tender the next day…it’s the first time it’s been used properly in weeks. So ice it that night and lots of stretches the next day……. even more importantly don’t go out and try to do the same thing the next day! Have 2-3 days of rest, exercises and stretches as the muscle although will be repaired it’s still a little weak so overworking it will cause it to pull again.
Until next time
KBS Sports Therapy