How to Heal a Muscle Strain
A muscle strain is the result of an overstretched tendon or muscle. In severe cases, the muscle may actually tear. According to the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine, anyone can develop a muscle strain, but they are more common with sports-related activities. Some of the symptoms include a burning sensation in the area of the injury, swelling and muscle spasms. Severe strains may require medical attention and even surgery. Most strains, however, are treated with a combination known as R.I.C.E: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Avoid using the injured muscle as much as possible. Use a crutch, if necessary, to rest a strained leg or groin muscle. Lean against pillows and supports for back strains, or sit in a reclining position. Support a strained arm, shoulder or wrist with a sling. Invest in a neck brace or "donut" for strained neck muscles.
Place ice in a plastic bag and wrap the bag in a towel to avoid frostbite. Apply ice for 20 minutes or until the injured area goes numb. Repeat several times a day to bring down swelling.
Wrap the injured area with a compression bandage. The bandage should be tight enough to effectively compress the injury, but should not interfere with circulation or breathing. If the surrounding area goes numb or turns blue, or if breathing becomes difficult, remove the bandages and wrap them looser.
Keep the injury at, or above, heart level whenever possible. Elevate a leg strain by reclining on a couch and resting the affected leg on the back of the couch. Place cushions under your lower body and lie flat in order to elevate your lower back or hips above the level of your heart. Keeping the injury elevated reduces swelling and prevents blood from pooling around the injury.
Use topical muscle creams, such as a menthol or capsaicin cream, for extra relief.
It may take several weeks for a strain to completely heal, depending on the severity of the injury. However, if your symptoms do not improve after a week, or become worse, contact your physician. Do not apply compression to neck strains.
Julia Michelle has been writing professionally since January 2009. Her specialties include massage therapy, computer tech support, land and aquatic personal training, aquatic group fitness and Reiki. She has an Associate in Applied Science from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in integrative medical massage therapy.