If muscles are worked too hard or repetitively, they can become overstrained, resulting in damage to the muscle tissues and tendons. These muscle or tendon strains or tears will need to recuperate and should be fully healed before the muscle is used to its full capability again.
There are many causes and degrees of muscle and tendon strains with a wide range of consequences and outcomes.
Athletes or sportspeople can experience acute muscle tears whilst competing, causing them to stop the activity immediately. Picture an athlete or footballer pulling up with a torn hamstring.
Muscle and tendon strains can also be the result of repetitive activity putting persistent and continued strain through a muscle or tendon. Conditions such as golfers or tennis elbow are examples of repetitive tendon strain injuries.
Muscles enjoy a healthy blood supply meaning that they have a good capacity for healing. Generally strained or torn muscles will take 2-6 weeks to heal, depending on the extent of the injury.
As well as advising on rehabilitative exercises, osteopaths can help the healing process by gently stretching the muscle and keeping the effected joint mobilised whilst the muscle heals.
Sometimes a muscle or tendon may be so extensively damaged that it requires surgical intervention. If this is the case then the osteopath will refer the patient on to the relevant specialist for further investigations.
Muscles can sometimes be subject to cramps which are strong, temporary, involuntary spasms within the muscle causing short-lived but extreme levels of pain and tension in the muscle.
The exact cause of muscle cramps is unknown however they are associated with dehydration and low levels of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium within the muscle fibres.
As the exact cause of cramps is unknown there is no direct method of treating the condition, however there is some evidence to suggest that the condition increases when there is a reduced blood flow through the muscles (particularly at night), therefore techniques of massage and stretching could possibly help by maximising the capacity for blood flow through the muscles.
There are various types of muscle pain, the most common of which is the ache or ‘burn’ experienced after a good work-out or exercise. This ‘good’ type of pain is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It perfectly normal and can last for up to 72 hours after exercising.
Surprisingly this condition has no real known cause, however it’s widely acknowledged that the more muscles become accustomed to exercise the less they tend to experience this pain.
As there is no real know cause for this condition there is no real way of treating it. There are various theories and methodologies adopted by sports teams to combat the symptoms – such as the ‘post-match ice bath’ – which are reported to have an effect, although there is as yet no hard and fast proof as to whether they work.