The legs and arms have various muscles that can be injured or torn. Torn muscles are painful.
Torn Muscle Injuries
Muscles can be pulled, strained, or even torn. Injuries may involve damage to the attaching tendons, blood vessels, or the muscle itself. Muscles can be torn part of the way or all of the way. Generally, these types of torn muscles and injuries are caused by sports, work, “sudden heavy lifting”, or even just normal activities.1 A muscle injury demonstrates symptoms such as bruising, weakness, limited range of motion, and tightness. Commonly injured muscles, besides the back, are the biceps (upper arm), calf, hamstrings (back of upper leg), and quadriceps (thigh). Severity can range from grade 1, which is a mild strain, to grade 2, a moderate strain, and up to grade 3, which is a complete rupture or severe strain. Treatment will depend upon the extent of the injury.2 When a muscle is torn, the blood vessels will be damaged, causing bleeding and possible bruising. Because the nerve endings become irritated, muscle tearing is painful.3 If the injury is accompanied by a “popping sound”, if a person cannot walk, if the bleeding and swelling are significant, or if there is a fever, it is best to call 911 for the emergency. A pulled muscle probably still has range of motion. A muscle tear may show a lump, and the range of motion is limited due to the pain, but a third degree tear is severely painful, swollen, and will likely need surgery.4
If the torn muscles can be treated without a professional, the first thing patients should do is stop the exercise or activity that caused the injury. The PRICE protocol may be followed: protect, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. They should ice the injury and wrap it with a bandage, elevating it above the heart to decrease the blood flow. Patients may wish to take an NSAID medication to reduce the inflammation. It is important to rest and not lift heavy objects for at least 3 days. At that point, patients can alternate (moist) hot and cold treatments. Cold is meant to reduce inflammation, while “heat will help disperse any blood that has collected”. Rehabilitation stretches and exercises can resume after the resting period. Professionals can help patients do this safely.5 Massage is another technique to use on the injury. It will increase the blood flow. Self-massage can be performed hourly to reduce swelling.6 A professional massage therapist can reduce tension by using techniques such as “effleurage, stripping, (and) broad cross-fiber sweeping”. To develop a functional and healthy scar, the massage therapist could provide “deep transverse friction massage”.7 Chiropractic care can also be beneficial for muscle injuries. After the first 72 hours (or longer for severe damage), a chiropractor can suggest range of motion (ROM) exercises. Some patients may wish to exercise in the water. Later, resistance exercises can be added to the rehabilitation program. Patients need to stretch and strengthen in order to resume normal activities.8
Learn about treating muscle spasms.