Have you ever pulled a muscle? Perhaps you got too enthusiastic with the press-ups, ran distances you weren’t prepared for or skipped your warm-up in a rush.
However it happened, it’s painful and frustrating and can leave you resigned to the sofa for days.
If you’re looking for ways to speed up your recovery from a muscle strain, we’ve got you covered. If your injuries have turned you from gym rat to couch potato, let us lend you a hand.
Read on to learn more about muscle strain and how to recover quickly, so you can go back to doing the things you love.
What Is Muscle Strain?
Muscle strains happen when your muscles are unable to cope with the pressures of exercise. For example, if you’ve been putting yourself under extensive physical stress, your muscle fibers can tear, leaving you feeling stiff and sore.
Although strains can happen in any muscle, they’re most common in the neck, shoulders, and hamstrings.
Muscle strains can present differently depending on the severity of the strain. For example, if you’re suffering from a mild to moderate strain, you’ll be able to recover quickly at home in most cases. If your strain is more severe, you may require medical treatment.
Muscle Strain: The Symptoms
- Discoloration or bruising at the affected site
- Pain with a sudden onset
- Struggle to move the affected muscle
- Muscle spasms
If you’re suffering from a mild strain, you’ll feel stiff, but your range of movement will not be badly limited. You will still be able to move the affected muscle, but you may experience some tenderness.
If you have a more severe strain, you may find your movement is incredibly limited, and you may be suffering from intense pain, bruising, or muscle spasms. If you think your strain may be more serious, consult your doctor for more advice.
Muscle Strain: Speeding Up Recovery
If you have a mild muscle strain, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of things you can do to speed up your recovery and get back in action.
But, as any gym rat or exercise enthusiast knows, time spent away from physical activity is tough. To get you back in the game as quickly as possible, take a look at the tips below.
Note: These tips may only be appropriate for mild cases of muscle strain. If you have a severe strain, you should follow medical advice and not overexert yourself during your recovery.
The Right Nutrients
To encourage the body’s muscle-building process, you’ll need to know what to eat for muscle recovery and consume the right nutrients. Let’s take a look at the list below for best nutrients to take:
Vitamin C helps your body make collagen. This contributes to the functioning of your bones, muscles, tendons, and skin.
It also contains anti-inflammatory properties, relieving inflammation and promoting a faster recovery.
In addition, foods such as strawberries, blackcurrants, potatoes, sprouts, peppers, oranges, and broccoli are excellent sources of Vitamin C.
Omega-3 has been proven to reduce the time required for tired or damaged muscles to recover from injury.
Omega 3 enhances skeletal muscle anabolism (the state that builds and repairs muscles). You can get omega-3 fatty acids from fish, flaxseed, fish oil, walnut, pumpkin, and soya.
Protein repairs and rebuilds muscles, and its amino acids act as building blocks to promote this growth.
Protein should be consumed after any workout, but it’s particularly beneficial to the body if you’re suffering from a strain. Protein can be found in meats like chicken and beef, eggs, fish and seafood, and dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese.
Calcium is essential for muscle growth and repair. Like protein, calcium can be found in dairy foods like milk and cheese and green leafy vegetables such as kale.
Vitamin D is essential for keeping the body functioning. Low Vitamin D levels have also been proven to increase the prevalence of muscle injuries amongst athletes - so you should DEFINITELY be incorporating this into your recovery process.
Foods rich in Vitamin D include liver, egg yolks, fortified foods such as cereals, red meat, and oily fish like salmon.
When the body enters non-REM sleep, growth hormones are released from the pituitary gland that encourages muscle repair and growth.
If you’re not getting enough sleep during recovery, the secretion of hormones reduces significantly, which can prolong your recovery time.
Non-REM sleep occurs shortly after you fall asleep. However, you should aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep a night to improve your recovery time. This enhances recovery through protein synthesis and growth hormone release.
The R.I.C.E mnemonic stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It’s one of the critical steps you should be following to treat a muscle strain or soft tissue injury.
Here’s the most effective way to use R.I.C.E to promote your recovery.
You should begin to rest as soon as the injury occurs. You should avoid putting any weight on the area for the first two days.
As soon as the injury occurs, you should begin applying ice packs to the muscle every two to three hours, for 15 minutes.
This should be done for the first 48 hours after an injury. Ice will reduce the pain and swelling associated with the injury and make it easier to increase your range of motion.
You should also wrap the affected muscle with a compression pack or bandage. Compression on an injury will help to prevent swelling.
One of the most important things you should be doing to improve your recovery time is to elevate your injury.
You should always elevate the affected muscle to the height of your heart. Elevation will reduce pain and swelling and promote a faster recovery.
Muscle strains are a painful but common occurrence. Although you may be feeling worse for wear after an injury, you can be back to your regular exercise routine in no time with the right treatment.
Remember: eat well, rest, and don’t be ashamed to take it easy. Allowing your body to recover and rest after an injury is the best treatment plan you can pursue.