A pulled muscle, or muscle strain, indicates that some damage has occurred to a muscle or the tendons attached to the muscle. This damage can be the result of too much pressure or force applied to a muscle. The muscle fibers and tendons can partially or completely tear as well. There are two types of muscle strains, acute and chronic. Acute muscle strains occur when a muscle is pulled past its normal ability of movement or if it is pulled quickly and abruptly, or both. Chronic muscle strains are strains that occur due to repetitive or prolonged movements. These strains are common in certain sports such as golf, tennis and gymnastics or in jobs that require repetitive movements of certain muscles. If a muscle is strained, depending on the location and severity of the strain, there can be pain and weakness, redness and bruising, swelling and possibly the inability to put any weight on the muscle. Two of the most common areas to sustain a muscle strain are the low back and also the hamstring muscles located in the thigh. Minor strains can be cared for at home using the P.R.I.C.E. approach; protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation. For more serious strains, a chiropractic physician or physical therapist can help with these steps.
A muscle spasm is an episode of involuntary contraction of a muscle, also known as a cramp. These episodes occur suddenly, end quickly and are generally quite painful. Muscle spasms can occur in any area of the body where muscle is involved. Muscles may be more prone to spasm when they are overworked or tired. It is thought that a muscle may involuntarily contract when it is dehydrated and lacking in electrolytes. When this happens, the muscle runs out of water, electrolytes and energy and begins to forcefully contract. Skeletal muscle may spasm when athletes exercise extensively in hot environments for prolonged periods of time. It is typically successful to care for a muscle spasm at home, as they do not last long and do not pose a great health danger. However, if muscle spasms become frequent and become more severe, medical care may be indicated. Also, if muscle spasm is due to injury or trauma to the muscle, medical help or medication may be needed if the pain is bothersome and frequent. The best advice when dealing with skeletal muscle spasm is prevention. Staying hydrated and stretching and warming up muscle groups before and after exercise are helpful in avoiding muscle spasm.
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