Between New Year and spring fever, this is the time of year we want to lace up our sneakers and (attempt to!) get into shape. The pandemic has kept us more sedentary than usual, so movement is more important than ever. But too much, too soon can lead to aches and pains. Knowing the difference between overexertion and physical injury is vital. If you’ve managed to do some damage—or reawaken an old injury—a visit to Pacific Surgical Center will have you back on your feet in no time.
A strained, or pulled, muscle “refers to damage to a muscle or its attaching tendons,” say doctors. “You can put undue pressure on muscles during the course of normal daily activities, with sudden heavy lifting, during sports, or while performing work tasks.”
This is different than tearing the muscle itself, which “can also damage small blood vessels, causing local bleeding, or bruising, and pain caused by irritation of the nerve endings in the area.”
If you’ve strained a muscle, you might notice pain when used and at rest, weakness, swelling, bruising, redness, or the inability to use that area at all. Doctors suggest seeking professional advice and treatment “if you hear a ‘popping’ sound with the injury, cannot walk, or there is significant swelling, pain, fever, or open cuts.”
Sprains are slightly different. These are stretches or tears in the ligaments which connect bones to joints. Doctors explain that “sprains usually happen when a person falls, twists, or is hit in a way that forces the body out of its normal position…The signs of most sprains or strains are very similar: pain and inflammation, and often bruising and swelling, at the injured area. Depending on how bad the sprain or strain is, the pain may be mild, moderate, or severe. With a sprain, you may feel a tear or pop in the joint as it happens. The joint may then feel either stiff or unstable.”
If you think you’ve sprained a ligament, contact your doctor if the symptoms get worse after 24 to 72 hours, you feel a popping when you try to move the joint, you can’t move it at all, or you cannot bear weight with the affected area.
Like strains, the treatment of sprains relies on R.I.C.E.: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Speak to your doctor about the best course of action or any medications for pain and inflammation.
One of the best ways to avoid both types of injury is by staying in shape and maintaining a healthy body weight. It is also recommended to warm up and stretch before physical activity and mix up activities because “chronic overuse of a joint can also lead to stretching of ligaments, chronic inflammation, or chronic irritation of a muscle-tendon.”
Those are also the best way to combat the more common repetitive strain injuries. Doctors describe that these are caused by “a gradual buildup of damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves from repetitive motions. RSIs are common and may be caused by many different types of activities, including using a computer mouse, typing, swiping items at a supermarket checkout, grasping tools, working on an assembly line, [and] training for sports. Some common RSIs are carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, rotator cuff tendonitis, [and] tennis elbow.”
With an RSI, you may feel pain, tenderness, stiffness, tingling, throbbing, numbness, or sensitivity to cold and heat. If your doctor diagnoses an RSI, they may go above and beyond R.I.C.E. and suggest medication, steroid injections, and an ergonomic evaluation of your workplace or desk.
If sports, repetitive motion, or just a lifetime of activity have done a number on your muscles and ligaments, talk to your primary care team about outpatient surgery at Pacific Surgical Center. Their orthopedic team can treat musculoskeletal trauma, degenerative diseases, pain, arthritis or osteoporosis, sports injuries, infections, congenital conditions, and work-related injuries.
They regularly perform minimally invasive work on areas including the foot, ankle, shoulder, leg, knee, arm, hand, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Their highly trained staff use cutting-edge practices and equipment to maintain an outpatient timeline that has you home and recuperating the same day. With the ability to perform tests and lab work under the same roof, PSC staff strives to keep prep work and follow-up visits to a minimum.
Getting into (or staying in) shape takes a little work. But the arrival of warmer weather, longer days, and the promise of a glorious summer make it all worthwhile. Now go dig out your sneakers, it’s time for a brisk walk!