The fact of the matter is that the human body is a machine comprised of many systems and moving parts. Even if you don’t exercise, the stresses of daily life may lead to an injury. And when you exercise, all it takes is one wrong move, a misfire of muscle fibers, or an overreach and you can end up with a pulled muscle, a strain – or worse.
So what’s the best way to heal a pulled muscle?
Here again I have my own ideas about how to approach this situation and they’re rooted in common sense. Many people try STRETCHING pulled muscles as a way to relieve pain but lets think about that for a moment. Your muscles are like rubber bands, so a pulled muscle is like an over stretched band with damage to the very fibers its comprised of. Does it make sense to stretch it even further? This won’t speed healing, but instead will potentially make it even worse.
Others think that HEAT is the answer because it feels good, but heat only exasperates more inflammation. The other problem with using heat is that it can make the injury feel better and you may feel like stretching it again – thus making the pulled muscle even worse.
The most common method of alleviating pain is to use ICE and I believe it’s probably the most effective treatment (although remember when I looked into ice baths and found they really didn’t have much of an effect!) Unfortunately ice doesn’t feel very good and can actually be quite uncomfortable. Plus it’s time consuming (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off!)
One other school of thought is to MASSAGE an injured muscle, which supposedly increases blood flow to the area. While massage certainly does feel good I can’t find any conclusive evidence that it does in fact speed recovery time. Nor do I have any personal experience with it – you know I’m not a massage fan!
I’m also wary of anti-inflammatory medicines like Advil or Alleve. These meds can help reduce inflammation and the pain associated with an injury. But pain exists for a reason – to let you know something is going on with an area of your body. Many times these little wonder pills will mask the pain and people hit the gym hard thinking everything is okay. You know what happens next…
With so many different muscle rubs on the market and different people suggesting various methods, it’s really hard to decide what course of action to take. For me I take the most logical route when I’m injured – and we all know how many serious injuries I’ve had over the years! My approach is simple – REST. Yes rest. I don’t try to stretch pulled muscles. I don’t use exercises that require use of an injured muscle. I don’t get massages, use heat or ice. I simply give the muscle the time it needs to recover and heal itself. Remember the human body is capable of amazing things, including self-healing itself after an injury.
So my advice is to REST the injured area. Don’t try ‘pushing through the pain’ – no one gives out medals for working out while hurt. As a rule, if you feel an injury during an exercise, skip it and move on to another area of your body. You could try massage or ice, but I highly suggest that you DON’T stretch an injured area. Once the injury is gone or has substantially subsided, ease back into your workouts SLOWLY. This will ensure you don’t re-injure yourself and allow the body proper time to re-acclimate to the workout.
Above all, as with everything in health and fitness, use common sense. A pulled muscle is an injury and your body needs time to heal it appropriately. As I’ve said numerous times before, respect your body and it will reward you with vigor and vitality.
What about you? Do you have a method of speeding healing? Have you pulled a muscle recently? What did you do?
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