Symptoms of persistent cramp type pain or niggles in a muscle may be indicative of a minor tear. The temptation is to stretch a niggly muscle before you exercise but you should simply warm up before your sporting activity putting your body gently and steadily through the movements of the activity you will be doing later under load and speed. Muscle soreness following heavy exercise will often settle as you warm up but with a tear the discomfort persists and may worsen as you continue.
Muscle tears can be graded by severity and the type that pulls you up sharply and makes it impossible to continue is likely to be more severe involving the tearing of several bands of muscle fibres. These more severe tears take longer to heal and therefore create more time to decondition and develop adaptive changes both to the muscle itself and neighbouring structures.
In these situations, a physio can assess the degree of injury and both treat and advise you on the necessary progression back to full fitness. As with a simple injury early reduction in load and activities combined with the RICE approach, will help to manage the pain. Getting back into exercise and a progression of loading can start as soon as the pain settles but with more severe painful injuries this may need to wait until 5 to 10 days after injury. Physio can start straight away and by grading the level of activity specifically you will make a quicker recovery.
What will your physio do?
- Assess the degree of injury
- Alleviate pain through physiotherapy techniques such as electro acupuncture, ultrasound manual hands on treatment and kinesio taping.
- Start you on a level of activity suitable to your current level of recovery.
- Advise you on when and how to stretch to help promote good healing within the damaged muscle fibres
- Progress you through with a bespoke exercise programme through the various stages of recovery. Liaise with coaching staff or your GP.
If indications dictate a very severe problem, your physio will refer you to the most appropriate local consultant to scan and assess the degree of damage