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Muscle Strain (pull/tear)

Muscles are made up of elastic/stretchable tissue. They are anchored to our bones by tendons (which are not elastic). Muscle strains happen when they are overloaded. Prompt assessment and treatment by a chartered physiotherapist will speed up recovery time and minimize the chance of recurrence.

Strains are classified as 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree:

  • 1st Degree: Mild muscle sprains with minor pain, swelling and only very temporary dysfunction. Usually do not require medical or physiotherapy intervention to resolve fully.
  • 2nd Degree: Moderate muscle Sprains- pain, swelling and dysfunction (e.g. limp).
    This type of sprain will recover quicker and better with physiotherapy.
  • 3rd Degree: Major muscle sprain- pain, swelling and major dysfunction (e.g. unable to walk). This type of sprain needs medical intervention for surgical repair and or immobilisation in a cast or splint.

R.I.C.E. Treatment

Until your injury has been assessed and for the first 48 hours you should follow the R.I.C.E. principle. This will minimise swelling and facilitate a speedier recovery with fewer complications.

REST: do not use the affected joint.

ICE: for 10 minutes at a time as often as possible especially in the first 24 hrs.

COMPRESSION: apply a firm bandage.

ELEVATION: raise the injured joint above the level of the heart (to help drain swelling).

Home Icing For an acute Calf Strain


In the acute [first 48 hours] stage AVOID – H.A.R.M.

Heat, Alcohol, Running, Massage

Physiotherapy will restore full pain-free stretch and strength in the injured muscle. Early treatment is vital because if bleeding is unchecked a large amount of swelling can occur, leading to a much more extensive area of scarred tissue (hard inflexible scab like tissue). This will then need to be treated prolonging recovery time considerably.

Initially physiotherapy treatment will aim to decrease pain and swelling using electrotherapy (ultrasound and interferential) and the R.I.C.E. principle. Once bleeding/swelling has stopped, stretching and strengthening exercises will be prescribed. A detailed assessment of care, strength, general flexibility and bio-mechanics will be made to identify any possible predisposing factors (e.g. flat feet, tight hamstrings, stiff back, weak core muscle groups). A comprehensive rehab program will then be devised.

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Co. Dublin, K67 X2T8

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