FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a muscle strain?

Unlike a sprain, which is the stretching or tearing of a ligament, usually in the ankle, a strain in the stretching of a muscle or tendon. Most strains happen in the lower back and hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh.

Can I avoid sports injuries?

It’s best to warm up your muscles with gentle exercise, like walking, for about 10-15 minutes. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water before, during and after exercise or playing sports. It’s also important to cool down after activity

How can I stretch my upper body?

You can stretch your arms by extending them upward, your palms facing out and your fingers interlaced. Then slowly push your arms up and out. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and repeat. Do side stretches by standing with your arms over your head, place the elbow of your left arm in your right hand and slowly bend toward your right side. Hold for 20 seconds. Then switch sides, holding your right arm in your left hand, and repeat stretch for 20 seconds.

How can I stretch my lower body?

Stretch your legs by putting one foot about 2 feet in front of the other and slowly leaning forward until the knee of your front leg is directly over your ankle. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Repeat the stretch with your other leg. Stretch your calf by leaning against a wall with one foot in front of the other. Keep your back leg straight and your heel on the floor. Hold your stretch for 20 seconds. Repeat the stretch with your other leg.

What should I not do when stretching?

Keep the tension on the muscle steady. Stretching shouldn’t be painful or uncomfortable. Don’t bounce when you stretch.

How can I treat a muscle sprain or strain?

The first sign of an injury is usually pain and swelling to the injured area. For the first few days, use RICE therapy—Rest, Ice packs, Compression and Elevation.

Can I take medicine to heal a muscle injury?

Non-prescription pain medicines, such as ibuprophen (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen can reduce pain and swelling. Take these medicines according to package instructions. You can also relieve pain with ice packs. You can buy compression bandages at the pharmacy.

How to make and use an ice pack.

If you’ve ever had a sports injury then you’re probably familiar with R.I.C.E. therapy:

  • Rest – stop using the injured part of your body
  • Ice – the area to reduce swelling, relieve pain and speed healing
  • Compression – if possible wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage (Ace bandage)
  • Elevation – while you are resting, keep your injury above the level of your heart. For example, if you have a sprained ankle, you want to rest it by lying down and propping your foot up to a level that is higher than your heart. Just sitting with your foot dangling is not as helpful for reducing swelling.

For the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury, which also includes surgery—your body doesn’t know whether your surgery is an accident or on purpose—you want to apply ice to the injured area. Usually, you can apply both compression and ice at the same time by wrapping the ice bag inside the elastic bandage. However, you don’t want to put the ice directly against the skin. Put a wash cloth between the ice bag and your skin before you wrap the bandage. Your doctor or physical therapist will usually tell you how long to keep the ice on the area and how often to use ice. It’s not uncommon to ice as often as every hour for the first 24-48 hours, leaving the ice on for 20 minutes at a time. There is no advantage to leaving the ice on longer than 20 minutes, the healing effects go away after about 20 minutes.

By numbing the area with ice, you can reduce or get rid of pain. Again, 20 minutes should do the trick. Ice bags are great for numbing episiotomy stitches.

You should also use ice after exercise or physical therapy while your injury is healing. Don’t use ice before exercise or physical therapy, as this slows down the blood flow and can cause further injury. Use heat to warm the muscles, ligaments, and tendons before exercise or PT so they can stretch without injury.

Recipe for an ice bag

If you have ever been to the drug store to buy an ice bag you know they can be expensive and most likely you will only buy one. So here’s an inexpensive way to make your own ice bag. You should make several so you will always have one ready when you need to ice.

What you need

  • 16 oz (2 cups) of water – it doesn’t have to be sterile, tap water will do
  • 16 oz (2 cups) of rubbing alcohol – you can get it at the drug store if you don’t have any
  • A self-sealing plastic bag that is large enough to cover your injury (one that has a zipper or very tight seal so that it doesn’t leak)
  • A marker for writing on the plastic bag.

How to make the ice bag

  1. Mark the bag “Contains water and rubbing alcohol. Keep away from children.”
  2. Pour the water and alcohol into the plastic bag.
  3. Seal the bag—make sure it doesn’t leak—and mix the liquids by squeezing the bag or laying it down on the counter and rolling it around for 15-30 seconds.

Once the bag freezes, it will be slushy instead of hard and can form to your body more easily. Don’t leave the ice bag where kids can get to it. Always put a cloth between your skin and the ice bag so you don’t burn your skin.

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