Muscle problems are common among athletes of all levels. Here are some tricks and tips to help you manage muscle disorder situations. If serious injuries are suspected, the best choice is to see a specialist.
HOW TO RELIEVE MUSCLE CRAMPS?
A muscle cramp is an involuntary, sudden muscle contraction that is accompanied by an intense pain and that disappears spontaneously within minutes. A proper hydration (water or sports drinks that are rich in minerals and carbohydrates) before, during and after exercise can prevent these kind of situations.
During the episode, gradually, stretch your muscle, massage it and keep it warm. Also, contract the opposite muscle and drink water (a little salty if possible).
WHAT IS MUSCLE CONTRACTURE AND HOW TO RELIEVE IT?
A muscle contracture is also an involuntary, painful muscle contraction. But unlike the muscle cramp, it persists for several days. Excessive muscle stretching, muscle injury or muscle fatigue may be associated to it.
Best thing to do at home if you have a muscle contracture is to rest your muscle for a few days, massage it and stretch it when the pain is gone. If you choose to see a doctor, he/she may prescribe you muscle relaxants or painkillers.
PREVENTING AND RELIEVING MUSCLE SORENESS
Strenuous or unaccustomed exercises (which require the muscle to contract while stretching) are generally accompanied by a sensation of diffuse pain, ache and stiffness, also known as muscle soreness. This usually starts between 12 and 24 hours after the exercises, is felt most strongly after 2 or 3 days and disappears in 5 to 7 days. The muscles remain weakened several days after the disappearance of pain, so before starting new exercises the warm up is mandatory and the workout must be progressive.
Resting your muscles is the best treatment in case of stiffness. Optionally, you can take hot baths, have a massage or you can apply relaxing ointments. New physical activity can be started, but only moderately, 24 to 48 hours after the workout that caused muscle soreness.
PREVENTING AND TREATING MUSCLE ELONGATION, MUSCLE TEAR AND MUSCLE RUPTURES
Muscle elongation, tearing or ruptures are accidents that all involve a muscle fiber injury:
– in the case of elongation, the muscle is slightly injured (micro-tears),
– in the case of tear, several muscle fibers are broken,
– in the case of rupture, the entire muscle is broken.
The muscle elongation is characterized by pain during exercise that may disappear at rest. The symptoms of muscle tearing or muscle rupture are acute, including a sharp pain, usually accompanied by a bruise (hematoma). The mobilization of the muscle is very difficult in case of tearing and impossible if it is a rupture. When the muscle is totally broken, its retraction may be visible.
Unusual stretching, rapid and violent contraction, excessive effort with insufficient training or warm-up may be responsible for these accidents. The main prevention measure is to warm up your muscles before exercise.
Immediate treatment of the injury: apply ice on the area (do not forget to insert a cloth between the skin and the ice to avoid ice burns), stop any physical activity, elevate your affected limb and put on a moderately tight bandage, so as not to cut off the blood circulation. Massage, local heat and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are contraindicated because they increase the risk of bleeding.
You must then consult a doctor, if possible specialized in trauma, who may prescribe you a muscle ultrasound to confirm his clinical diagnosis and adapt your medical care (painkillers, anti-inflammatories, puncture of the hematoma if necessary, physiotherapy, exceptionally even surgery) to the type of injury. Rehabilitation usually starts after a rest period of about a week.
Also, you must stop your physical activity for 3 to 7 days in the case of a muscle elongation, for a month in the case of a muscle tear, and up to 2 months in the case of a muscle break. The recovery should be gradual and only in the absence of pain (follow the “non-pain rule”).
Do not forget, serious injuries need special medical care, appropriate rehabilitation and a mandatory rest period to prevent complications and recurrences!