If the muscle stretches too much – for example, because of fierce or unusual activity – the muscle fibers may be broken. The muscle contracts, and it can swell due to internal bleeding. In some cases, muscle rupture (complete tearing) may also occur.
The main symptom of the muscle strain is pain which follows immediately after a person gets injured. The strained muscle is painfully sensitive, it can swell and will not function effectively until the cut fibers are healed completey. However, if there is a rupture, the muscle will not function at all. The muscle that gradually becomes stiff, sensitive and painful (often overnight) does not have to be stretched; these symptoms are also possible with excessive muscle strain.
Almost everybody have this problem at some point in life. Such injuries are especially apt for people who are actively involved in sports. Muscle ruptures are much less frequent.
In most cases, the recovery is quick and complete, so there is no vagueness of permanent loss of mobility. The older you are, the more likely the damage is, and the recovery slower. However, ruptured muscles can become completely useless if they are not successfully cured.
What to do?
If you strained your muscle and if it seems like it is not damaged, apply recommended self-help measures. If you have severe pain, or if the affected area is seriously swollen, contact a doctor who will carefully assess the degree of injury after careful examination.
Self-help: as long as the pain persists, try to stretch the muscles tighter as soon as possible. You will be able to strengthen the muscle by pulling it, but be careful not to lift it too heavily, as an additional swelling could disrupt the blood flow. You may also need to take a pain killer, e.g. paracetamol. When the pain relieves, start exercising again to prevent muscle stiffness.
Professional help: treatment depends on the degree of injury. Your doctor may prescribe some pain medication stronger than paracetamol as well as a muscle relaxant. If you have injured your leg, he will advise you to use the crutches; if it’s a hand, use the bandage around your neck. Your doctor may also advise you on physical therapy. If it is a rupture of the muscles, the only solution may be the surgical procedure.