Have you ever had a bad muscle strain? Most of us manage it once or twice in childhood, and it can also happen easily in adulthood, especially if you’re an active person. There are ways that you can reduce the risk, but it’s also important to know what to do if it does happen. Taking the right steps can protect you from longer-lasting damage.
Are you over-exercising?
One common cause of muscle strains is over-exercise. We all feel good when we’ve successfully managed to push our limits, and we strive to motivate ourselves to do more, but it is possible to do too much. Pain isn’t just a barrier to be overcome – it can be a serious warning. If it starts to linger longer than usual or if it returns quickly when you start using those muscles again, it’s time to heed that warning. Don’t be impatient about reaching your long-term exercise goals – you’ll get there more quickly if you avoid having to take serious time out by making sure that you don’t exacerbate an injury.
General health and muscle strains
It might sound obvious that you’re less likely to get injured if you look after your body, but that goes beyond keeping your muscles in good shape. Eating a healthy diet improves the ability of your muscles to repair minor damage, and staying well hydrated is especially important. Even if you’re focusing on muscle-building exercises, you should devote a good bit of time to maintaining your aerobic fitness, as muscles move more freely when blood is flowing through them efficiently. Keeping your weight down is also helpful because it means that you’re putting less strain on your muscles with each individual movement.
Preventing muscle strains when you work out
The single most important factor in avoiding muscle strains when you exercise is doing a proper warm-up. Start off with something gentle such as a ten-minute run on the spot, then rest and stretch your muscles. If you also do this after your workout, you’ll significantly reduce your risk of injury. You can also keep yourself safer by doing different kinds of exercise over the course of the week. This means that different muscles will be doing the hard work at different times, and it also means that your body will stay flexible more easily.
Caring for strained muscles
Getting the occasional minor strain is inevitable. It doesn’t need to be a big deal, as long as you manage it properly. This means recognizing it when it occurs and, if possible, talking to a doctor or physiotherapist about it. You should always see a professional if your injury makes a popping sound or swells badly, or if you feel feverish.
With most minor strains, you will only need to take three to seven days off exercise, but it’s important to rest properly. With a leg injury, this could mean altering your daily routine so that you don’t have to do as much walking. A more serious strain could mean that you need to use a support to keep it from getting worse, or keep it in an elevated position when at rest. Standard anti-inflammatory painkillers will help, and hot baths can ease both short-term and long-term symptoms.
Returning to exercise after a strain
When the strained muscle feels like it’s back to normal and you’re ready to start exercising again, you’ll need to ease into it gently. Even if you’ve only had to rest for a few days and you feel just as capable as you were before you got hurt, there’s a risk that you won’t be fully healed and that your injury will be aggravated again if you go straight back into the same routine.
Choosing the right men’s work out clothes can help at this stage, with some new garments specifically designed to support muscles through the recovery process. Good-quality compression clothing will improve blood flow and reduce the risk of further injury. You should also extend your warm-up times at this stage, and don’t even try to “feel the burn” until you’re sure that your body is working normally.
Muscle strains can be frustrating, but it’s always worth remembering that regular exercise lowers your risk of long-term muscle aches and disability. Taking breaks when necessary and looking after yourself properly means that you’ll make better progress when it comes to building up your fitness, strength, and endurance. Professional athletes work through these things, and you can too – and you can come out of it with a better appreciation of what your body can do.