Feeling great: What to do if you pull a muscle

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Have you ever pulled a muscle? Chances are you have. And when you do, don’t you know it!

When you pull one 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 lower back injury that leaves you unable to walk for days.

Just last week a gentleman walked in the clinic in agony. He hobbled in, dragging his leg behind him barely able to walk, and asked this:

“What do you do when you pull a muscle? I was playing a game of football with my Nephew and as I kicked the ball, something went and I couldn’t move - and I can still barely walk! What can I do to ease the pain quick?”

This man was in bits. Every step he took made him scrunch his face in excruciating agony.

So what do you do when you pull a muscle?

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 judgment - 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 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.

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 minimise 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 tea towel and then apply to the area.

Next 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.

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.

So here’s my tip for you today: You don’t always need to rush off to a pharmacy and buy a “magic cure” to rub on muscles and joints or take painkillers. There is nearly always a natural solution out there waiting for you.

Secondly, if you are experiencing a pulled muscle, try this “RICE” method first. Although isn’t a guaranteed fix, it’s proven to help ease all of them and a good place to start.

If you’ve got any muscle or sports injuries right now, here’s a free guide which shows you the best ways to get back to being active, and ease pain quick. Go here: www.paulgoughphysio.com/sports-injury-clinic to claim your free copy. Or, if you’d rather speak to someone on the phone about your injury, call us on: 0800 043 8671 – and our top Sports Therapist will talk with you.