Take care of your muscles when exercising to reduce your risk of suffering a painful muscle tear. Also called muscle strains, muscle tears are either acute or chronic and often occur in the lower back muscles or hamstrings. Sudden and awkward movement, like tripping on uneven ground, can cause an acute muscle tear. A chronic muscle tear is the result of repetitive motion injury and is most commonly seen among athletes. Keeping your muscles strong but not overworked helps prevent muscle tears. More severe muscle tears may require surgical intervention.
Stretching helps increase flexibility and range of motion and should be a part of each workout. Before exercising, avoid static stretches where you hold the position, like forward bends. Extending muscles to their limit while cold can cause them to tighten up, increasing your risk of muscle injury. Instead, perform warmup aerobic exercises like light jogging or jumping jacks to efficiently loosen your muscles. Then focus on dynamic stretches like walking lunges or leg swings and include sport-specific moves, such as hitting serves before playing tennis. Engage in a session of static stretches after a workout while your muscles are warm. The child’s pose performed in yoga routines is an effective deep stretch.
Conditioning your muscles can help prevent muscle tears. Strength training helps build muscle mass and bone density while supporting joint flexibility. MayoClinic.com recommends 20- to 30-minute weight-training sessions performed two to three times per week. Improving your flexibility, agility and balance skills through yoga, tai chi or Pilates can help prevent a fall or awkward movement that commonly causes muscle tears.
You can reduce your risk of suffering a muscle tear by not overworking your muscles. Begin a new fitness regimen slowly, increasing your intensity and frequency by no more than 10 percent per week. Overexertion can lead to poor form when exercising, increasing your risk of muscle injuries. Take rest breaks frequently while working out and stay hydrated. Avoid strength training the same set of muscles on consecutive days to allow your muscles adequate recovery time.
Athletes are especially prone to recurrent hamstring muscle strains, but an individualized treatment plan may help decrease symptoms and the risk of recurrence. Muscle tear symptoms include localized pain, swelling and limited range of motion. Standard treatment for muscle tears is rest, application of ice packs, compression and elevation, or R.I.C.E., for the first few days to decrease swelling and pain. Follow up with your doctor if your condition does not improve with conservative treatment. Severe muscle tears may require a brace or surgery.
References & Resources
- MayoClinic.com: Sprains and Strains Definition
- American Council on Exercise: Is it Better to Stretch Before or After My Workout?
- Runner’s World: A Dynamic Routine
- MayoClinic.com: Weight Training: It’s All About Technique
- Time: Why Stretching May Not Help Before Exercise
- Core Performance: Avoid a Calf Muscle Strain
- American Journal of Sports Medicine: Hamstring Muscle Strain Recurrence and Strength Performance Disorders
- MayoClinic.com: Sprains and Strains Symptoms
- MayoClinic.com: Sprains and Strains Treatments and Drugs