Muscle Pulls and the Beauty of a Good Warm Up
One thing that I see quite regularly as a massage therapist is muscle strain, the good old’ pulled muscle that’s both uncomfortable and highly limiting. Strains can come in varying degrees from a muscle stretched beyond its normal range to minor tearing of individual muscle fibers within a muscle group to a complete tear of the muscle. One of the most colorful muscle tears I saw (deep purple and yellow) was a hamstring that was overstretched while throwing a tennis ball as an impromptu weapon towards a menacing backyard raccoon. Who won? Raccoon: 1, Homeowner: 0.
Another thing that I play witness to on a regular basis is the “old” muscle pull that’s never fully healed and comes back over and over. This is the “out of pain, out of mind” phenomenon that happens to us athletes regularly. That once something doesn’t consciously hurt, it’s healed and we can go back to our old ways (taken liberally to mean play how we played when we were twenty). Like, no warm up, no extra TLC before or after a workout. Don’t forget that your body loves all of that extra attention and that’s probably why you’ve healed so quickly in the first place. Once you’re feeling good again, don’t forget to baby injuries a bit and then to keep up some of that self-care as just a part of your “always” routine.
Once you have a diagnosed muscle strain:
- Ice the injury for the first 48 hours to reduce inflammation and speed healing•
- Heat the muscle before activity. This can render it more pliable and ready for what you’re about to do.
- Don’t stretch it if you feel pain
- Get some massage! Muscle strains respond well to massage to decrease adhesion and really increase healing blood flow through those deep muscle fibers. It can also manually and gently stretch the muscle. Ask your partner for just a nice five minute massage every day for a few days and you’ll notice the difference
- A Physical Therapist can help with therapeutic massage/ manipulation of the tissue, ultrasound and exercises to strengthen the areas needed to support your injury.
Good things to do in life to avoid muscle strains:
- Warm up with a light jog, functional movements like less intense movements of the activity you’re about to do, swing your arms, your legs, rotate your hips, etc.
- Don’t cold stretch before an activity. Ease into it.
- Think of your body as shrink wrapped in connective tissue (fascia). This connective tissue softens with heat, activity and stretching and is pliable when warm. Keep your shrink wrapped fascia nice and loose on a regular basis! Exercise, do yoga, get massage, take warm baths, find your best ergonomics at work and sit less.
- Let the raccoon win the next one, champ.
Katy Canete, L.M.P.