Muscle strain can be caused by many things, whether it’s pulling your neck from turning too quickly or pulling a groin muscle during flag football. Whatever the cause, muscle strain is painful and inconvenient. Knowing how to treat this pain and the swelling that comes with it can help you heal more quickly and make you more comfortable. Here are six muscle strain treatments that you can try the next time you need relief.
A muscle becomes strained as the result of the fibers in the tissue getting damaged. This is the source of the pain you experience, along with the inflammation and swelling that occurs. To fight these symptoms and relieve the pain, apply cold to the injury, ideally as quickly as possible after the injury occurs. The cold should then continue to be applied several times a day for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Some ways to apply cold are with:
- Ice or gel packs
- Cold water baths
- Cold therapy systems
Most often, an ice pack is the most convenient option for an injury, but a cold therapy system may help you heal faster.
Applying pressure to the affected area may also help to reduce swelling. This can be done using a static or elastic bandage to apply consistent compression and prevent additional swelling. Creating a pumping action (active compression) provides additional benefits in that your body can more easily remove excess fluid in the injured area and increases the flow of freshly oxygenated blood that aids tissue repair and healing.
Massages are not just a great way to destress; they can help with muscle strain by loosening tight muscles and increasing blood flow to help heal damaged tissues. As with compression, applying pressure to the injured muscle tissue during a massage helps to remove excess fluid and cellular waste products. The injury may be too sensitive for a massage immediately after it has happened, but after about a week, it may become beneficial in relieving pain and improving range of motion.
Heat should not be applied right after an injury, but it can help to relieve any pain after the initial swelling has calmed down. Therapeutic heat can be applied with:
- Electric hot pads
- Warm baths or hot tubs
- Hot cloths
- Hot water bottles
Heat helps to increase blood flow, which can promote healing. You can alternate between hot and cold therapy.
Even if you’re suffering from muscle strain, that doesn’t mean that you can’t stay active. In fact, staying active during the healing process can be beneficial. A physical therapist can show you stretching exercises that can help you to maintain flexibility and range of motion. The therapist can also work with you to do strengthening exercises to build up supporting muscles. This helps to reduce the risk of another muscle strain.
If the pain of a muscle strain is hindering your daily activities, you can relieve it by using over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or NSAIDs. These medications may also help reduce swelling. If more extreme relief is required, you may need to go to your doctor for a short course of stronger pain medication.
Most cases of a muscle strain can be relieved and treated with some combination of these methods. If the pain doesn’t ease after a couple days or if you are worried that it’s a more serious injury, it would be a good idea to pay a visit to the doctor.