Muscle Injuries - Corks, Strains & Cramps
For any of you who have had a muscle cork, strain or cramp, you will understand how painful, frustrating &, at times debilitating, they can be. Despite this, muscle injuries are
often treated incorrectly, leading to poor healing & increased risk of re-injury.
Muscle strains/tears occur when the fibres of a muscle fail to cope wth the demand placed on them. Strains/tears commonly occur in running, jumping & change of direction sports, & usually during a sudden acceleration or deceleration. They are also more common in muscles that cross two joints, such as the calf muscle, hamstrings & quadriceps. Strains are graded from a grade I strain (which involves a small number of muscle fibres) to a grade III strain (which is a complete tear of the muscle).Factors that can lead to strain or tear of a muscle include muscle weakness, excessive muscle tightness,
previous injury, inadequate warm-up & poor technique/biomechanics.
Immediate treatment for a muscle strain/tear aims to minimise bleeding, swelling & inflammation & follows the RICE regime of:
R – Rest
I – Ice
C – Compression
E – Elevation
RICE in conjunction with physiotherapy treatment aims to promote efficient scar formation with ultrasound, soft tissue therapy & carefully prescribed exercises.
Muscle contusions or corks usually occur as a result of a direct
blow to a muscle, (eg. knee to the thigh from an opposition player), causing
local damage & bleeding in the muscle. Occasionally after more severe contusions, a complication called ‘Myositis Ossificans’ may develop, which is bone calcification of the haematoma. This should be suspected if your symptoms have not settled within a reasonable time-frame & can be detected on X-Ray, however early & appropriate treatment can reduce the risk of myositis ossificans developing in the first place.
Immediate management of corks must also follow the RICE regime, avoiding the common mistakes of using heat, deep tissue massage & alcohol to settle the symptoms, as this only increases the blood flow to the area. Physiotherapy treatment will aim to
minimise bleeding & swelling & encourage reabsorption of the blood clot.
Muscle Cramps are involuntary forceful muscle contractions that are
common in the calf muscle but can occur in any muscle. The most likely cause of
cramps is increased nerve activity causing increased stimulation of the
muscles. Other factors that may contribute are dehydration, low potassium, low sodium, low calcium or low magnesium levels, inadequate carbohydrate intake or very tight or weak muscles.
Whilst there are no proven treatments for exercise-induced cramps, some things that may help prevent them include; regular stretching, being adequately fit, adequate hydration & nutrition, adequate strength & endurance.
Remember that with all soft tissue injuries early diagnosis & early treatment is the key to you returning to your sport/work/hobbies as soon as possible.