If you’ve ever pulled a muscle, you’ll testify to the fact that it’s not the most comfortable thing to experience. Now common sense suggest that we should wait until the pain we’re not getting any pain or are at the very least moving normally again to begin our rehab (in whatever form this takes). However, research from Bayer et al (2017) suggests otherwise.
Rehabilitation following a muscle injury typically involves a multistep approach that aims to help the injured muscle heal, reduce pain and inflammation, regain strength, and ultimately, return to normal activities.
Here are some common steps in a muscle injury rehabilitation program:
- Rest and Ice: The initial stage of treatment involves rest and protection of the injured muscle. Applying ice to the area can help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.
- Pain management: Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen (although this is a blog in itself) may be recommended to help manage pain and swelling.
- Stretching and Strengthening: Gentle stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and range of motion. As the muscle begins to heal, the physio will progress to strengthening exercises to help restore muscle strength and stability.
- Gradual Return to Activity: As the injured muscle heals and regains strength the aim is to gradually return to normal activities. Your physio will work with you to develop a plan that includes specific activities and exercises to help you safely return to your normal level of activity.
The point which this study shines a light on is number 1.
The authors suggest that we could gain huge benefits by progressing from stage 1 to 3 much more quickly, within days in fact!
Here’s what the authors concluded –
‘This study shows the clinical consequences of protracted immobilization after a recreational sports injury. Starting rehabilitation 2 days after injury rather than waiting for 9 days shortened the interval from injury to pain-free recovery and return to sports by 3 weeks without any significant increase in the risk of reinjury’.
This has potentially massive implications for people who take part in sport, as 3 weeks can be as much as a quarter of the meaningful season in some instances. Therefore any ways to optimise the speed in which we can return to play without compromising the risk of further injury should be looked at much more closely.
Now obviously if you have sustained a high grade muscle injury we wouldn’t suggest managing this yourself.
A thorough understanding of the structures involved and methods that can be employed to safely navigate the early days is crucial.
A physiotherapist is an expert in anatomy and physiology, and can facilitate your management to ensure you maximise each day. By utilising a physio following a muscle injury you are significantly increasing the chances of benefitting from the outcomes suggested by the author of this paper.
The sooner you get assessed, the sooner we can get to work at getting you back out doing what you love, so don’t delay!
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