leg muscle injuries

Leg Muscle Injuries : Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment


Leg Muscle Injuries

A leg muscle injury refers to muscle fibers being stretched or torn. Muscles are strained when they are stretched beyond limits or undergo extreme contraction. The different types of leg muscle injuries are as follows:

Calf Muscle Strains

This is called gastrocnemius-strains. The muscle of the calves undergoes strain if the foot bends upwards, causing the calf muscle to stretch exceeding the limit. During the injuries that take place, a popping sound may be heard in the calves. This refers to the noise of the calf muscle shearing from your Achilles' tendons. Athletes may experience this type of injury most commonly.

Plantaris Strains

The thin muscle located at the extreme end of the femur moves across the knee joints and affixes the heel with the tendon. As the plantaris does not influence the knees to bend much, tear in the calf muscle may not affect the knee function. But it can cause a lot of pain, towards the posterior of the calf rather than the knee. The strain can lead to significant pain and can occur alone or in association with calf muscle strain or the tear in the anterior-cruciate ligaments, which stabilize the knee.

Pulled Hamstring

A hamstring strain or a pulled hamstring is another set of elongated muscles that extend towards the behind of the thigh. Hamstrings work to move the leg and cause the knee to bend. When the muscle undergoes a tear, a sound may be heard. This is likely when you are performing activities such as kicking, jumping and running.

Quadriceps Strain

Level of Muscle Strain
Photo By: Danjo Paluska/ CC BY

This is a leg muscle injury which involves the massive group of large muscles at the thigh front that straightens the knee. This is opposite the hamstrings actions. This strain is a common injury found in runners or gym enthusiasts.

Level of Muscle Strain

Depending upon the level of muscle strain, doctors categorize these into:

  • Grade 1
  • Grade 2
  • Grade 3

Grade 1: Few muscle fibers are torn so strength of the muscles remains optimal

Grade 2: Many muscle fibers are torn so pain, swelling and tenderness may occur.

Grade 3: The muscle tears through, and there are serious repercussions of this.

Symptoms of Leg Muscle Injuries

The symptoms of strained leg muscles comprise:

  • Blue or black discoloration or both
  • Muscular tenderness and painful sensations
  • Pain is alleviated by rest
  • Decrease in the strength of the muscle
  • Local muscle swelling
  • Total muscle function loss
  • Knotted feeling
  • Problems in walking
  • Injury causing a popping sound
  • Muscle spasms
  • A gap, dent or flaw in the muscle's normal outline
  • Sudden onset of pain and soreness
  • Less range of movement
  • Discoloration or bruising
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness

While mild– moderate muscle strains go away within few weeks, severe strains take a long time to heal.

Diagnosis

Doctors will seek to find out the activity which caused the leg pains and whether the popping sound was heard in muscles following injury. Fall in muscle strength or obstacles in walking may also signal what the prognosis may be. Most Grade 1 or Grade 2 injuries improve within a couple of days. Some symptoms may be gone while others improved within a few weeks. Torn muscles are repaired surgically when Grade 3 injuries are suffered.

Causes of Leg Muscle Injuries

An acute muscle strain is when the muscle undergoes a tear unexpectedly and suddenly. Tears can occur from injuries coupled with traumas. This can be on account of:

  • Lack of conditioning and flexibility
  • Fatigue and overexertion
  • Not warming up well before physical activities

Only extensive exercises and high-intensity workouts can lead to muscular strains. Leg muscle injuries can also result from a mere walk! An acute strain can occur when people accidentally miss their footing, run or jump, or pick up something heavy, or when they are in awkward position. Acute muscle strains are commonly experienced in cold weather.

In less temperatures, muscles become stiffer and it is important to take the time to prevent additional strain or injury. The chronic muscle strains are caused by movements that are repeatedly done such as athletic activities, lack of effective posture, a stiffness of position and working in one position for a long period.

Treatment

Muscle strains can be treated through home remedies.

Rest Those Muscles

Ensure that your muscle is unused for some days. This is more so if there is an intensification in pain caused by movements. Excessive rest can heal the muscles that are injured. Not overdoing it is the right cure for this affected leg muscle.

Apply Ice

Ice needs to be applied immediately after the muscle injury. This lowers swelling and ice should not be directly applied. Use a cold compress or an ice pack or apply ice crushed inside a towel. Ice should remain on the muscle for close to half an hour. It should be repeated on the hour every time for the first day. Then, it should be applied for a total of 5-6 times only.

Use Compression

Photo By: Raquel Baranow/ CC BY
Photo By: Raquel Baranow/ CC BY

To lower swelling, the impacted area needs to be wrapped with a regular bandage till the swelling lessens. The area should not be wrapped too stiffly, as this leads to less blood flow.

Try Elevation

The damaged muscle region needs to be kept at an angle higher than the heart's level.

Other Treatment Methods

OTC anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or Advil can help to keep the pain and inflammation to bearable levels. Tylenol can also help with the discomfort and pain.

Light stretching can also prove beneficial as this gradually increases the level of activities.

When one returns to normal activities, strengthen and warming up before the exercise is conducted. This enhances blood circulation to muscles and lowers risk of injuries.

Make an effort to stay trim and fit– this is unlikely to strain the leg if the muscles are healthy and functional.

Severe muscle strains need careful medical supervision and physiotherapy.

When to See a Doctor

  • For medium or moderate strains, home remedy works. Try for medical attention if the pain does not subside once a week is over.
  • Numbness in the hurt area or blood spurting from the injury and lack of movement can also be signs that medical attention is critical.
  • Inability to move arms and legs also indicates the need for a doctor.

Prevention

This is always better than cure because there is a decrease in the likelihood of straining muscles if basic precautions are not taken. Don't remain in one position for longer periods as more breaks are needed to move and bring a change in the posture. Chairs should be able to provide support for lower backs.

  • Knees should be at the same level as the hips if you are interested in maintaining good posture and averting leg muscle injuries.
  • Another important point is that objects need to be lifted carefully. Holding the back straight, you need to bend the knees and lift the object.
  • The weights you carry should be held close to the body. Lifting and twisting at once can lead to problems.
  • Use precautions to avoid falling such as holding the railing on the staircase, moving away from spots where you can slip and remove clutter from the floor.
  • Losing weight is also an excellent way to maintain your balance and prevent leg injuries. Wearing shoes that are proper can also help to avert a problem.
  • Stretching and warming up before participating in physical activity ensures that you can commence slowly and build up the activities.
  • Muscle tightness is another crucial factor that influences the possibility of developing injuries. Athletes need to carry out daily stretching exercises.
  • Lack of conditioning is another reason leg muscle injuries are likely.
  • Muscle fatigue may be another reason for the susceptibility to leg muscle injuries.
  • Regular exercise will ensure muscle conditioning and increase the flexibility of the body
  • Warming up and cooling down after exercise can also prove beneficial
  • Take the time to heal. Your muscles will thank you for it.

Conclusion

Leg muscle injuries are quite common. Home remedies are quick and effective ways to deal with these. But if the injury is serious, medical care is advisable. Heal your body when it hurts and you will end up with strong, healthy limbs that will last you a lifetime.

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