Muscle Strains - Don't Ignore the pain
Muscle strains are another very common injury for runners and many of the questions I get from the readers here at WalkJogRun and from patients in my clinic. Anyone can experience muscle strains, but they might be more prevalent among active people, especially runners, athletes, etc.
Muscle strains are defined broadly because there are varying degrees of strains spanning from what are commonly known as muscle pulls all the way to micro-tearing or partial tearing. A strain is a situation in which the muscle fibres overstretch and sometimes tear slightly. Occasionally muscle strains are a symptom of overuse that can develop gradually over time. Muscles that are overstretched can turn into micro-tears and they can become more symptomatic over longer periods, but anytime undue pressure is placed on muscles there is an increased risk – even when doing housework, so take it easy with that feather duster!
While sprain and strain are occasionally used interchangeably, strain is defined as an injury to muscle or tendon, as opposed to sprain being an injury or stretch to a ligament, ie ankle sprain.
Once you experience a full muscle or tendon tear, however, it is termed a rupture and doesn't fall under the definition of a muscle strain. An acute partial tearing of the muscle can cause damage to the blood vessels around the area and this can result in some bruising or discoloration.
Symptoms of Muscle Strains
The most common symptoms for muscle strains are swelling, tightening, bruising and pain specifically related to whenever that particular muscle is stretched. If it is an acute injury, there could be some redness mixed in with the bruising.
Where I See it Most Commonly
The most common muscle strains I see are from runners who dramatically increase their distances too rapidly. These runners make significant additions to the amount of time they run or the miles they are logging and their muscles become overstretched and overtime, they develop micro-tears.
I also see it in the acute sense in runners who already logged a lot of miles. Their muscles become fatigued and the protective mechanisms that usually compensate for the weaker muscle groups are not as effective. It does not take much to put already fatigued muscles over the edge.