Very common in athletes, muscle tearing corresponds to a lesion of muscle fibers. It manifests itself following excessive physical exertion. Its severity varies, ranging from simple elongation, to muscle and tendon rupture, through breakdown. In the presence of symptoms (contracture, edema, hematoma, etc.) of a muscle tear, sports activity must be stopped immediately in order to consult a doctor quickly. The treatment systematically begins with resting, icing the painful area and taking analgesics. Rehabilitation and physiotherapy care are not undertaken until several days after the injury. It takes several weeks for the muscles and tendons to repair.
Muscle tear, definition and symptoms
The muscles mobilized during physical effort are called “skeletal striated muscles” and are composed of “elongated cells” or muscle fibers. During a tear, part of these muscle fibers is broken, causing inflammation and pain.
Athletes are often prone to muscle trauma such as muscle tears. The resulting lesions are due to heavy physical exertion or sudden movement. There are also some so-called intrinsic causes (related to the patient himself), such as an unsuitable diet, insufficient training or preparation, tendonitis, etc.
When it is a simple muscular elongation, we speak of a grade 1 lesion. When it is a partial tear, or strain, we speak of a grade 2 lesion. In the event of a complete tear of the muscle and its tendon, this is called a grade 3 lesion.
The risk of suffering a tear is increased in the event of:
Insufficient preparation for exercise (warming up, stretching, etc.);
Performing physical exertion without suitable recovery periods;
Insufficient hydration (less than 1.5l/day of water).
In the majority of cases, a muscle tear manifests itself by intense pain, similar to a stabbing in the muscle. All movement then becomes impossible for the athlete who is obliged to immediately cease his activity. Sometimes the clicking of the muscle is audible.
When there is a musculotendinous rupture, one can perceive a hollow at the level of the rupture, and a ball at the place where the muscle has retracted. Note that bone tearing may be associated.
Muscle edema and hematoma may be associated with the patient’s pain.
Diagnosis and treatment of a muscle tear
When the examination is carried out early, that is to say before the inflammatory processes have had time to fill the notch with muscle tissue, the painful point is easily identifiable.
During the consultation, the doctor first asks the patient about the circumstances that led to the tear. Then, the latter seeks to measure the intensity of the pain and its location. He then proceeds to the clinical examination through careful observation of the muscle, palpation of the painful area and mobilization of the affected limb. The doctor looks in particular for any associated lesions (rupture of the Achilles tendon, for example) or signs of complications (phlebitis).
First, an ultrasound can be performed to study the condition of muscle fibers and tendons. The doctor can also prescribe Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), the reference technique for analyzing the topography of the lesion and its importance. This test will make it possible to evaluate the location, extent and depth of the muscle lesion, to detect the possible presence of hemorrhage and finally to check that there are no complications such as deep phlebitis.
How to treat a muscle tear?
The first steps to take in the event of muscle tears are as follows:
Immediate cessation of all physical activity;
Avoidance of direct contact with the injured area or weight bearing on the injury;
The application of cold water or ideally an ice pack to reduce pain and inflammation;
The application of a bandage without tightening too much in order to avoid any formation of edema or hematoma;
If possible, elevation of the affected limb to prevent the formation of edema.
Then, you must quickly seek medical advice, especially if walking is difficult or even impossible.
The treatment has several objectives: to ensure complete healing of the injury, to prevent it from becoming chronic and to limit the sequelae and risk of recurrence.
In order to treat the lesion, promote healing and eliminate any risk of recurrence, the initial treatment is rest. The patient will be taken care of by the specialist who will provide him with rehabilitation sessions. Cryotherapy, elastic bandaging and elevation of the injured limb are combined with the prescribed recovery period. Depending on the severity of the muscle tear, the rest period recommended by the prescriber may vary between 1 to 2 months. Analgesics may be prescribed, mainly paracetamol.
To know ! Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and aspirin should be avoided in order to optimize the healing and regeneration processes of the muscle.
Additionally, physical therapy may be performed to help the muscle readapt to movement. Several techniques can be used: ultrasound (vibrations to reduce inflammation and improve blood circulation), cryotherapy (cold treatment to reduce pain and edema), balneotherapy, and then muscle strengthening and exercise rehabilitation.
Finally, in certain cases of complete rupture of the muscle and tendon or following the formation of a large hematoma, it is sometimes necessary to resort to surgery.
For certain types of muscle tear, especially when the calf is concerned, wearing an orthopedic insole may be recommended in order to promote a gradual recovery of support on the ground.
In short, nothing better than a two-month rest after a muscle tear. Even after recovery, care must be taken not to make sudden movements and to avoid forcing the regenerated muscle.
The resumption of sports activity must be authorized by the doctor, once the complete healing of the muscle tear has been obtained.
The risks of complications
- Several complications can be observed following a muscle tear:
- Hypertrophic healing. The scar is bulky and hard;
- A retraction of the muscle, in other words the muscle is shortened or its volume is reduced;
- A cyst development in the muscle;
- Calcification at the level of a hematoma.
- Some complications may require surgery. However, early and appropriate management can limit their occurrence.
To prevent muscle tears, certain measures can be put in place such as:
- Adapting physical activity to one’s physical abilities, in other words, avoiding over-training;
- A good warm-up and stretching;
- Sufficient hydration and a balanced diet. More generally, a healthy lifestyle with sufficient sleep time;
- Sufficient recovery time.