“There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path. Don’t allow yourself to become one of them.”
– Ralph Marston
Today’s my rest day and it couldn’t have come at a better time. After Wednesday’s sprints, my right quad is in knots and is not getting any better. So as I’m nursing it today, I thought I’d talk about the difference between a pulled/torn muscle, a knotted muscle and how to treat them.
A pulled muscle can be caused by a direct hit or by over-extension (over stretching the muscle during a sprint for example). The pain will depend on the severity of the pull; a slight pull (grade 1) might be sore, but it won’t inhibit your movement at all. A medium pull (grade 2) will restrict your movement and you’ll also feel pain when resting. A severe pull (grade 3) is also known as a torn muscle. It is debilitating and you won’t be able to walk. If you’ve torn your muscle, you’ll know it right away. A tear is a sharp pain and can feel like the muscle is seizing up on you. If you press around the muscle, you’ll feel pain in one isolated point on the muscle, where the tear occurred. You might see bruising in the area or feel heat, that’s the blood flooding in to try to heal the injury.
If you’ve pulled the muscle you need to stop exercising immediately so that you don’t injure yourself more. You need to apply R.I.C.E right away…a term widely known by athletes:
- Rest is self explanatory, until the muscle is healed and you no longer feel pain during movement you shouldn’t return to activity…this is the time to listen to your body and not push yourself.
- Ice the spot right away to try to minimize inflammation (an Ibuprofen/Advil will help here too)
- Compression using a tensor and
- Elevation will minimize the blood flow to the area helping reduce the inflammation in the area
Muscle knots are sections in the muscle where it’s contracted and doesn’t release. Because of the stress on the muscle, it tightens and sometimes can go into spasm…if you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night with a muscle spasm I don’t have to explain what that feels like.
A knotted muscle will feel like a bump in your muscle that will shift around as you try to isolate it. You’ll feel it throughout the muscle and sometimes it can extend to different muscle groups (in my case the quads). If you’d like to feel one, touch your upper back just under your neck…these knots are caused by poor posture, hours in front of the computer and stress.
Doctors don’t really know what cause knots and don’t have a set way to release them either, but there are a few techniques that do help:
- Heat – applying a heat pack on the sore muscle will help release it. You can also try a combination of heat and cold to relax the muscle. Apply a heat pack for 10 minutes, followed by an ice pack for 10 minutes and keep switching in between them until you feel relief. For me a heat pack usually relaxes the muscle enough and all the back and forth between the heat and ice is exhausting so I don’t bother…but if you find heat isn’t enough, try the heat/ice combination.
- Stretch – once the muscle is warm you can stretch it to relax it and release some of the knot. You can stretch as many times a day as you’d like as long as you heat up the muscle beforehand.
- Massage – this isn’t pleasant but if you can reach the muscle and can take the pain, find the center of the muscle and start to kneed it out, working our way out from the center of the knot to the ends. You can use a rolling pin if it’s on the front of your leg or a foam roller if it’s your calf or hamstring. Even a tennis ball against the wall or on the floor and pressing your body weight onto it will do the trick. If you’re not able to do it and have no friends that will help you out, go get a massage and let them work it out. It won’t be a relaxing massage but it will do the trick.
- Supplements – Calcium and Potassium supplements help, so take some right away or go eat a banana (potassium). Keep taking them while training if you’re not getting enough from your diet.
- Water – I’m sure I don’t need to mention this, but you should be drinking lots of water to stay hydrated
- Ultrasound/Acupuncture – are known to help relax and release the knot in the muscle so if you have the health coverage, they’re not a bad option if the at home treatments haven’t worked.
I’ve been heating, massaging and stretching my quad for the past two days. If it doesn’t start to get better soon I’m going to go to a professional but for now, let’s hope that it stops being stubborn and releases on it’s own.
Some people say that positive thinking and visualization can work so I’m visualizing the muscle release…OOOOMMMMM….haha, just kidding, I haven’t reached desperation yet!