Muscle strain may occur when loads are placed on the muscles beyond what they are able to bear, or when muscles are stretched beyond their normal range of motion. Both of these conditions can cause injury of the muscle. As a result of muscle injury, the body's coping mechanism is to cause the muscle to tighten, or contract, to prevent further injury. This mechanism may occur due to muscle injuries, or to adjacent structures involving the muscles, such as the tendons and the joints. This tension of the muscle is a natural defense mechanism for the body to protect that area from sustaining further injury.
This defense mechanism is beneficial to the body in most instances, though prolonged immobility of joints and muscles can exacerbate an injury.
For many people, muscles and tendons become slow to heal for two reasons.
- A regular activity schedule serves to strengthen ligaments and muscles, and prolonged periods of activity will weaken them. People who experience pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms in particular muscle groups often stop working out and doing the things that they normally do, with the hopes of resting the muscles and giving them a chance to heal. Without an exercise routine or regular activity, these tendons and muscles may weaken further.
- Normal movement prevents adhesions, which are inflammatory bands or scarring that joints the tendon or muscle to surrounding structures. Regular exercise and normal activities increase the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid that circulates in our bodies. When our synovial joints or muscles become damages, fluid may build up, which is one of the causes of the swelling we feel. As injuries go away, most of this fluid is reabsorbed by the body, through the blood vessels and lymph nodes. In some cases, though, a sticky left-over residue of material may be left over that isn't absorbed. This residue is known as adhesions. Adhesions may cling to muscles and tendons or other surrounding structures. These adhesions may disrupt the mobility of structures and cause pain.
Muscle strain may be evaluated by a doctor or other orthopedic specialist. People should resume exercise after a period of time from injury, unless they are torn, to prevent adhesions from developing on the tendons or muscles of the back. Adhesions may cause lower back pain when the come in contact with nerve fibers on the connect tissues and they may restrict movement if they are allowed to form. Simple, nonaggressive movement during the healing process can help prevent this occurrence.
By the time you have had trigger points develop in the muscle and damage there long enough for scar tissue to have formed, you would have probably have sought medical intervention of some sort. Physical therapy may be beneficial in increasing blood vessel and lymphatic circulation in muscles to accelerate the healing process, as well as increasing strength and flexibility to muscles that have become tight or atrophied.
As a short-term treatment for muscle spasms and muscle tightness, muscle relaxants may be prescribed for some pain relief loosening of the muscle. Other treatments include massage therapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, physical therapy, osteopathy, and chiropractic manipulations.