Pulling or tearing a muscle is a common injury we see in clinic – but what actually happens in the healing process and what can you do to help?
There are three main phases to healing: the inflammatory, the proliferation and the remodelling. But before we get onto these let’s take a look at the three grades of muscle tear.
The inflammatory phase
This is an important part of the healing process, one which prepares the environment for the rest of the recovery. Signs of this are redness, swelling, heat, pain and loss of function. Given the importance of this stage, we advise against taking anti-inflammatories where possible, particularly with standard muscle injuries. If you need something to control the pain then stick to painkillers.
One of the key parts of this phase are the chemicals which attract fibroblasts – the handymen and women who come in and do the repair work required. Which brings us onto…
The Proliferation Phase
If you’ve partially torn a muscle, the proliferation phase will repair the tear by laying down new fibres to repair that gap. These are initially thrown together to bridge the gap and the time taken for this will depend on the extent of the injury.
The Remodelling Phase
Essentially this remodels the newly formed muscle back to its nice strong and uniform structure to provide enables efficient use of the muscle. Depending what tissue is damaged, this may take anywhere up to 1-2 years, although of course you’ll be able to use the muscle as normal in just a few weeks.
This is a very important part of the healing process – without it the area is not as strong and therefore more susceptible to re-injury. If you know someone who regularly ‘tweaks’ a muscle then it could well be this stage that they’re not fully completing.
How to help the process
The best way to speed up and help the process is to follow the advice of your physio and do your exercises! But importantly, make sure these are progressed. Depending on the injury this could mean progressing the exercises themselves or it could mean changing the parameters, such as the weight, time under tension etc.
For any advice on this, including what time under tension actually is, do not hesitate in getting in touch.