Muscle strains can happen in many ways, but no matter how they are caused, they are always painful and inconvenient. Whether you strained your neck while parallel parking or pulled a groin muscle playing hockey, knowing how to treat the pain and swelling will help you recover more quickly and make you more comfortable.
Next time you experience a muscle strain, be prepared with these six treatments:
1. Cold Therapy
When you strain a muscle, the fibers in the tissue are damaged. The result is pain, inflammation in the muscle tissue, and swelling in the affected area. You can combat all of these symptoms by applying cold to the injury, ideally as quickly as possible after it occurs. Continue applying cold several times a day for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Some of the methods you can use are:
- Ice or gel packs
- Cold water baths
- Cold therapy systems
In most cases, an ice pack is the most readily available solution immediately after an injury. However, using a cold therapy system for the duration of your recovery can help you heal faster.
Another way to help reduce swelling is by applying pressure to the affected area. You can use a static or elastic bandage to apply consistent compression and prevent additional swelling. Active compression that creates a pumping action provides additional benefits by helping your body remove excess fluid in the injured area and increasing the flow of freshly oxygenated blood needed for tissue repair and healing.
Therapeutic massage helps loosen tight muscles and increases blood flow to help heal damaged tissues. Applying pressure to the injured muscle tissue also helps remove excess fluid and cellular waste products. Although the area might be too sensitive for massage in the days immediately following the injury, after about a week, it can help relieve pain and improve range of motion.
4. Heat Therapy
Although heat should not be applied right after an injury, it can help relieve pain after the initial swelling has subsided. You can apply therapeutic heat with:
- Electric hot pads
- Warm baths or hot tubs
- Hot cloths
- Hot water bottles
Heat also has the benefit of increasing blood flow, which can promote healing. You can safely alternate hot and cold therapy to reduce pain and swelling caused by a muscle strain.
5. Physical Therapy
During recovery from a muscle strain, it’s a good idea to stay active without risking reinjury or prolonging the healing process. A physical therapist can show you stretching exercises to help you maintain flexibility and range of motion. In some cases, you can also do strengthening exercises to build up supporting muscles to reduce the risk of another muscle strain.
6. Pain Medication
Muscle strains can be quite painful, and if you have injured a major muscle group, it can impact your ability to perform daily activities. You can relieve pain with over-the-counter medications like aspirin or NSAIDs, which can also help reduce swelling. For more extreme muscle strains, your doctor might recommend a short course of a stronger pain medication.
Most muscle strains can be treated at home with a combination of the above methods. If the pain doesn’t decrease after a couple days or if you are concerned about a more serious injury, it’s always a good idea to seek medical attention from a professional. When you speak to your doctor, ask about getting a prescription for Game Ready, the active compression and cold therapy system that is proven to help you recover faster.