When you pull a muscle, the pain can range from mild, like a minor neck strain you get from turning your head the wrong way, to very severe, such as a hamstring injury that leaves you unable to walk for days.
Recently we had someone call and ask...
“What do you do when you pull a muscle?
My son started working out for football, he did a sharp cut and something went and he couldn’t move – it's been a couple days and he can still barely walk!
…What can he do to ease the pain quick?!”
This is a very common question we hear at the clinic.
Believe it or not you can easily pull a muscle, even if you do not do any intense physical activity…
We have had a patient sneeze and pull a muscle in her lower back. She was in so much pain and completely unable to walk; She had to use her office chair with wheels to support her to get around the house.
She thought it was embarrassing , but throwing your back ‘out’ from sneezing makes sense and can easily happen to anyone.
The sneeze forced a sudden, uncontrolled movement that her body simply wasn’t prepared for. And it’s this kind of sudden movement that often results in a pulled or strained muscle, because the body is forced into an action it’s not warmed up for.
Whiplash is a great example of this…
The sudden rapid back and forth movement of the neck causes strain to the neck muscles, leaving you feeling achy, and your neck too painful to turn properly.
And the same happened to the athlete who's mom called and said he strained his leg badly from playing football – his muscles weren’t prepared and warmed up properly, so the sudden quick movement of making a sharp cut came as a shock to his body, straining a muscle in his leg.
What Are The Common Causes Of A Pulled Muscle?
You don’t have to be a weightlifter, or be carrying anything heavy to pull a muscle…
Sneezing, turning your neck suddenly, sleeping in an awkward position, moving to pick something up or even reaching for something that’s tricky to get to – are just a few examples of simple things you can do everyday to put a muscle out.
And believe me when I say, when you pull a muscle, usually you’ll know it right away.
What Are The Common Symptoms Of A Pulled Muscle?
You might experience a sudden onset of pain, soreness, bruising, stiffness, swelling, a limited range of movement, muscle spasms…
And that’s just a few of the symptoms!
So what do you do when you pull a muscle?…
Do you use ice or heat? Do you rest, or keep moving? Do you get a therapist to take a look?
If the muscle pull is severe – the kind that really does stop you from walking, or turning your neck at all… Then you should immediately see someone. Don’t mess around with severe injuries and try to treat them at home yourself, or it might last longer!
The advice I’m about to give you is for a mild muscle strain – the kind where you can still move, but you know you’ve done something. As always, use your best judgement – go and seek help if you’re in any doubt whatsoever.
Ok, so you’ve pulled a muscle – what should you do?
I’m going to break this down so you know what to do at all stages when you’ve pulled a muscle so you can get back to 100% as quickly as possible.
As soon as you know you’ve pulled a muscle – I recommend you use the tried and tested ‘RICE’ method.
*Note that this is a treatment protocol recommended to do in the first 24 hours of a muscle strain…
So, “R” – this stands for “Rest”.
The first thing you need to do is stop doing whatever you did that pulled your muscle in the first place. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen people injure themselves, especially when doing a physical activity, and decide to go ahead and push through it – That is guaranteed to always make your injury worse.
Next step – “Ice”.
A lot of people ask – “When do I use ice, and when do I use heat?”…
Well, the sooner you apply ice, the better! Ice the injured area for 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, and do this up to 3 times.
Ice provides pain relief and helps minimize swelling. Which is the primary purpose of ice – to reduce swelling.
It’s best to think of ice as a pain-reliever.
But don’t apply it directly to the skin. Wrap it in a towel and then apply to the area.
Then you move onto “Compression”.
Apply a soft bandage to the area to help support the muscle and reduce the swelling. Make sure not to wrap the area too tightly or you will restrict blood flow to the area.
Next for the ‘E’ – “Elevation”. If possible, try to keep the injured muscle elevated, above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling. Though I know this isn’t always possible in some cases, so don’t worry about this one too much.
As a general rule, after doing the above method for a day, I like to get moving as soon as possible. Even as soon as the next day. I’m only talking about very gentle movements that don’t cause pain. If anything you’re doing causes pain – stop immediately.
Although this method isn’t a guaranteed fix, it’s proven to help ease all of them and a good place to start.
More Solutions If You’ve Pulled A Muscle
If you are in agonizing pain right now, frustrated that it isn’t getting any better, and tired of relying on painkillers, then arrange a FREE consultation where you can speak to one of our physical therapists.
Or if you’ve got any muscle or sports injuries right now that haven’t fully heal after 7 days, here’s a free guide which shows you the BEST ways to get back to being active, and ease pain quick.