A strain injury usually occurs when the muscle is forcibly stretched beyond its limits and the muscle tissue tears. A tear in a muscle is referred to as a strain and, depending on its severity, is classified as a first, second or third degree strain:
Grade 1: a small number of fibres are torn resulting in some pain, but allowing full function.
Grade 2: a significant number of fibres are torn with moderate loss of function.
Grade 3: all muscle fibres are ruptured resulting in major loss of function.
Strains are usually characterised by sudden and severe pain during exercise, which can sometimes start with a snapping or popping feeling.
- Tenderness or pain in the muscle
- Spasm or shortening (tightness) of the surrounding muscles
- Pain on stretch
- Pain on muscle contraction
With appropriate management, patients with minor strains can usually recover in one to three weeks. With larger tears, recovery may take four to six weeks or longer depending on the severity. If the patient has had a full rupture of the muscle, surgery may be considered with intensive rehabilitation to follow. Return to sport or activity may then take 6 months or longer.
Treatment for Quadriceps / Hamstring Muscle Strains
Physiotherapy treatment for patients with this condition is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and decrease the likelihood of injury recurrence. Treatment may comprise:
- Exercise programs to stretch, self treat and improve proprioception, balance and strength
- Deep tissue massage/myofascial release
- Biomechanical assessment
- Education / training advise/ phased return to exercise
- Activity modification advice
- Joint mobilisation
- Joint manipulation
- Spinal and pelvic realignment
- Dry needling /acupuncture
- Orthotic/insole advice
- Ice or heat treatment
- Clinical Pilates