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Preventing a muscle strain during your workout

Preventing a muscle strain during your workout

Muscle strains are one of the most frequently reported sports-related conditions. In fact, some studies estimate that muscle injuries may account for up to 55% of all injuries in athletes. While a sprain is a type of injury affecting the ligaments, a strain happens when the muscles or tendons overstretch and tear.

Whether you’re playing your favorite sport or enjoying a quick workout, understanding the basics of muscle strains and their causes can help you take action to reduce your risk.

Types of muscle strain

It’s possible to experience a strain in many different muscles in your body. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, you may be more prone to a specific type of muscle strain based on the activities you do:

  • Hamstring strains. Located on the back of your thighs, a hamstring injury is common in contact sports like football or soccer or those that have quick starts like jumping or running.
  • Calf strains. This strain in your lower leg is common with football, tennis, soccer, or sports that have a lot of pivots or starts and stops.
  • Hand strains. You may be more likely to strain the muscles in your wrist or hands if you play golf, tennis, or other sports that involve gripping.
  • Elbow strains. These injuries happen most often when doing activities that involve throwing or racquets.
  • Shoulder strains. Repetitive motions of the shoulder from throwing, lifting, or swimming or a fall or impact to the shoulder may cause a strain.
  • Back strains. Bending, twisting, or overuse during a workout or other activities can lead to this common type of strain.

Muscle strains are also classified based on the severity of the injury. A mild or grade 1 strain affects a small amount of the muscle fibers and usually resolves in a few weeks. A grade 2 strain means there is more damage and tearing. Grade 3 strains are the most severe and involve a complete tear in the muscle.

Reducing your risk of muscle strain

The first step to preventing a muscle strain is to understand what types of strains you’re more likely to experience based on your activity or sport. Then, you can be proactive about helping reduce those risks. In general, some steps you can take to prevent the likelihood of any type of muscle strain include:

  • Incorporate daily stretching into your routine
  • Warm up before any physical activity
  • Make time to cool down after an activity
  • Use a balance of different types of exercises as part of your workout, including muscle-strengthening exercises
  • Ease into new activities and know your limits
  • Allow time for rest and recovery if you experience an injury
  • Talk with your doctor or sports medicine specialist about tips specific to your activity

When the pain doesn’t go away

Even with preventive steps, muscle strains can still happen. If you think you have a muscle strain, at-home care such as RICE—rest, ice, compression, and elevation—and over-the-counter pain medications may help it mild strains.

However, when pain persists for more than a couple of weeks, it could be a sign of a more serious strain, tear, or other orthopedic condition. A visit to an orthopedic sports medicine specialist can get to the source of your pain and make a plan to help you heal.