A sedentary lifestyle and age are factors that lead to a marked reduction in muscle strength. As a consequence, generalised muscle pain or localised muscle pain like common lower back pain may occur.
However, muscle care through regular exercise can help to effectively alleviate these ailments. To do this, it is necessary to do exercises that help to increase muscle tone and strength, as well as to improve the functionality of the musculoskeletal system.
The most common muscle injuries
Muscle injuries are very common in the world of sport. The most recent epidemiological studies show that muscle injuries account for more than 30% of all sports injuries. They are more common in football than in other professional sports, such as basketball or handball.
They are more frequent in the lower limbs, although they vary depending on the sport. For example, a hamstring injury is more frequent in sports such as athletics or football, and it can be even 4 times more common than injuries to the quadriceps, and 5 times more common than injuries to the calves and adductors.
The most frequently affected muscles are: the quadriceps, hamstrings, medial calf, and adductors. The abdominal wall, buttocks, pectoral, muscles in the arm and forearm are affected to a lesser extent.
Diagnosis of muscle injuries
The clinical diagnosis of muscle injuries is based mainly on the symptoms and especially on the anamnesis of the injury mechanism, as well as on physical examination (external signs, palpation, evaluation of pain in the different types of contraction of the affected muscle, assessment of flexibility, etc.).
Imaging studies using musculoskeletal ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are also possible and may confirm the diagnosis and obtain exact information on the muscle injury in relation to the affected connective tissue, thus allowing the severity of the injury, the length of the wound and the expected time off to be understood.
Types of muscle injuries
Muscle injuries, depending on their cause, are classified into two types:
Direct or extrinsic muscle injuries, when caused by trauma, such as a contusion or laceration, which is frequent in contact sports or car accidents.
Indirect or intrinsic muscle injuries, when they originate from indirect factors associated with muscular overstrain and are produced by stretching generated by a sudden muscle contraction.
This category of muscle injuries includes minor ailments such as stiffness, contractures caused by overload, or complete muscle tears that may require around three months to fully heal.
Treating muscle injuries
The treatment of muscle injuries is based on 3 phases: acute, subacute and resuming the sport. To progress from one phase to another, criteria must be met that indicate that the muscle is ready for further stimulus. Therefore, the duration of each phase is not set in stone and will depend on the specific progression of each injury.
- Acute phase: Once the injury occurs, the first phase of the treatment that is usually started is as follows. During the first 24-72 hours it is a priority to reduce swelling and inflammation; therefore the so-called RICE method is applied, that is: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
- Subacute phase: From the third day on, it is important to start to activate the affected muscle area if the first phase has been overcome correctly without any complications. It is important to gradually gain the full range of motion through stretching.
- Resuming the specific sport: Progressive introduction of the specific sport. It is important to ensure a gradual transition from controlled rehabilitation to exercises that mimic the specific sport.
How to prevent muscle injuries
Being in good physical condition and training properly are essential to preventing any type of sports injury. It is essential for progression to be proper, uniform and appropriate in order to assimilate workloads. This way, physical and medical problems will be avoided when doing exercise.
To prevent muscle injuries, it is important to always do specific warm-up exercises before starting to exercise. Warming up activates and prepares the muscles gradually, increasing their blood supply and minimising the risk of damage.
Also, at the end of training, it is essential to lower the rhythm progressively and never suddenly, and to dedicate a few minutes to stretching and massaging so as to relax the muscles and tissue that have been subjected to stress.