Preventing One of the Most Common Training Injuries: Muscle Strains
Preventing One of the Most Common Training Injuries: Muscle Strains
What Is A Muscle Strain?
A muscle strain is a type of injury that occurs when your muscles are stretched beyond their normal range of motion. Muscles can become strained if you do not perform certain types of movements correctly or if you overuse them. You may have heard the term “muscle strains” used in sports such as soccer, football, basketball, tennis and many others. If you have ever tried to play soccer without stretching your legs before every game, you will understand that it is very difficult! When you stretch out your leg muscles, they tend to get tight and sore. Your body does not like this and begins to use up its energy trying to protect itself from potential harm. In addition, if you are a competitive athlete then your performance suffers because of the pain caused by the muscle strain.
Muscle strains are most commonly caused by improper form. For example, if you were to jump up into the air with one foot and land on your other foot, your muscles would be stretched out and could potentially cause a muscle strain. Another way that a muscle strain can occur is due to overexertion. An example of this might be running up stairs at high speed without taking breaks or resting between steps.
Your legs may begin to feel sore after several minutes of this activity, and the pain may even last for quite some time afterwards.
The exact cause of muscle strain is not well understood; however, it has been suggested that quadriceps muscles strains may be caused by a decrease in the lubrication of the muscle fibers, thus leading to a decrease in the range of motion of the muscles. This decrease in range of motion can lead to tearing of the fibers themselves and result in a muscle strain.
All types of athletes such as track and field, swimmers, soccer players, weightlifters and even rock climbers are susceptible to muscle strains. It is important that you take preventative measures to ensure that you do not experience pain or soreness after engaging in physical activity.
How to Prevent Muscle Strains
The first thing that you can do to prevent a muscle strain is to breathe deeply and exhale during the entire activity. This will allow your body to have more oxygen, which is necessary when engaging in physical activity. In addition, proper hydration is very important before, during and after physical activity. Proper hydration allows your muscles to perform at maximum capabilities without becoming strained or damaged.
While it is very important to stay hydrated, it is also important not to overdo it. Drinking too much water can potentially be dangerous so it’s important that you listen to your body and not over-do it.
The second thing that you can do is to stretch before and after physical activity. When you stretch, your muscles are warmed up which allows them to be more pliable and less likely to be strained or pulled. Make sure to stretch all of the major muscle groups including the legs, arms, hips and back. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and never bounce when stretching since this can cause small tears in your muscles which can lead to major problems later on.
The third thing that you can do is to ensure that you are wearing appropriate clothing before engaging in any physical activity. Wearing the wrong clothing can actually restrict the movement of your muscles and put you at greater risk for injury. For example, when playing football or soccer and the weather is cold, wearing too much clothing such as a turtleneck or long johns under your uniform can actually restrict movement and make you more prone to muscle strains.
The fourth thing that you can do is to ensure that you are engaging in physical activities that you are suited for. For example, if you are not extremely fit you may want to reconsider playing soccer or football since these sports require a great deal of endurance and stamina. Likewise, if you are not extremely flexible you may want to reconsider gymnastics or dance since these sports require great flexibility.
The fifth and final thing that you can do is to make sure to stretch after engaging in physical activity. It’s important to note that your muscles are warm following physical activity which means that they are more likely to be strained and pulled if you do not stretch. Stretching after physical activity, during a cool down period, will increase your flexibility and hopefully prevent any muscle pulls or strains.
If you follow these steps you should be able to prevent muscle strains in most situations. If you continue to experience pain or soreness please seek the advice of a medical professional.
If you don’t stretch before and after your activity, you’re bound to pull a muscle somewhere. It could be mild or it could be severe but it’s more than likely going to happen at some point in time. Some people don’t realize the importance of stretching and they think that it’s just a waste of time. However, if you don’t take the time to stretch before and after physical activity, you’re going to find yourself stiff and in a lot of pain the next day.
The first thing that you’re likely to feel is stiffness. Your muscles will be very tight and won’t be as pliable as they usually are. You may also feel very sore. Your legs are the most likely place that you’re going to feel soreness.
This is especially true if you engage in running during your activity. If you don’t stretch properly, you may actually find muscles cramps setting in. Cramps are very painful and can actually cause you to stop whatever it is that you’re doing unless the cramp relaxes on its own.
You may also experience joint pain or issues if you don’t stretch. When you engage in physical activity, your body heats up its muscles to prepare them for the activity at hand. If you don’t take time to cool down after your activity, your muscles stay heated and they can begin to ache.
Long-term issues can also arise if you don’t stretch and put your body under a lot of stress. Your joints, especially those in your legs and knees, can become worn and arthritic from overuse and not stretching. This is very common in people who are constantly on their feet all day at work.
It’s important to take the time to stretch after physical activity so that you can help prevent injuries and issues in the future. Not only will stretching make you feel better in the moment, it’ll also help you out in the long run as well.
If you aren’t sure on how to stretch properly, ask a medical professional or someone who is physically fit. There are many different types of stretches and some are better for you than others. If you have a specific activity that you’re engaging in, ask someone who has experience in that activity what the best type of stretches are.
Some people prefer to stretch cold and others like to stretch warm. There is no right or wrong way, as it all comes down to personal preference. If you’re a little tight and cold stretching hurts, then try stretching warm. On the other hand, if you feel OK warming up but getting tight afterwards, try stretching cold.
In either case, make sure to take it slow and not force any of the stretches. You want to hold the stretches long enough for them to be effective, but not so long that they cause pain. Always check with a medical professional before starting any new exercise program, especially if you’ve been sedentary for a long period of time.
Most importantly, listen to your body.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Hamstring injuries: risk assessment and injury prevention (RA Clark – Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore, 2008 – annals.edu.sg)
- Resistance training among young athletes: safety, efficacy and injury prevention effects (AD Faigenbaum, GD Myer – British journal of sports medicine, 2010 – bjsm.bmj.com)
- The Effectiveness of a Preseason Exercise Program to Prevent Adductor Muscle Strains in Professional Ice Hockey Players (TF Tyler, SJ Nicholas, RJ Campbell… – … American journal of …, 2002 – journals.sagepub.com)
- Injury incidence, risk factors and prevention in Australian rules football (C Hrysomallis – Sports medicine, 2013 – Springer)
- Balance board training: prevention of traumatic injuries of the lower extremities in female soccer players? (K Söderman, S Werner, T Pietilä, B Engström… – Knee surgery, sports …, 2000 – Springer)
- A systematic review of the effectiveness of eccentric strength training in the prevention of hamstring muscle strains in otherwise healthy individuals (O Hibbert, K Cheong, A Grant, A Beers… – North American journal …, 2008 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)