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Muscle Tears – Signs, Symptoms and Prevention

Muscle Tears are something that should never be overlooked. Having a torn muscle can cause the muscle to never look the same – and in many cases, completely mutilated. Serious tears have caused the muscle to look completely different, which can affect an individuals aesthetics and balance more than anything. Along with that, dealing with the pain, surgical repair, and recovery is something that nobody wants to endure. 

Let’s not confuse a muscle tear/injury with the ever-so-common muscle soreness. It’s true that your muscles are sore because they’re being damaged, and need to repair in order to grow. However, this is a natural occurance and is expected in weight trained people. Muscle strains can be milk, moderate, or severe. The most extreme case of a muscle injury is a complete muscle tear, which requires surgical repair.

Prevention Strategies

I’ve known people that would walk into the gym, load on the weight they’re going to use to test their max, and press it without any form of a warmup. This is absolutely insane and while you may or may not ever have an injury, why risk it? Warming up is most often seen as the best prevention strategy for serious muscle injuries. How you go about the warmup varies.

Mild to moderate cardiovascular exercise with a gradual increase in intensity will raise the temperature of the muscles and tendons in your body by up to 2+ degrees. By having an improved temperatures, muscles become more extensible, improves muscle function, and most importantly – decreases the likelyhood of injury.

Some cringe at the thought of cardio before weight training, but if you try completing a small warmup, usually lasting no more than 5-10 minutes at a maximum of 70% of your maximum heart rate, it will only benefit you.  You might wonder why you don’t just stretch the muscle groups being worked. Stretching a cold muscle might actually increase the likelyhood of injury. Along with increasing the risk of injury, static, hard stretching has been linked to reduced power output as well in some studies when it comes to your actual lifts.

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After the warmup is conducted, it is a good idea to stretch all major muscle groups, because you never know exactly what muscles may be strained during a movement. People have torn biceps and triceps doing deadlifts. You may pull a muscle that you believe had zero involement with the exercise being performed.  Avoid bouncing movements while stretching, as it can force a muscle past it’s range of motion, and possibly lead to muscle or tendon injury. Avoid stretching too hard against a muscle immediately, as this can simulate the same overload as lifting a heavy weight from a cold start.

Being hydrated is also an extremely important factor in the prevention of muscle tears. Consume water not only during the exercise, but hours, or even the day before, the workout. Keeping hydrated on a 24 hour time scale is important, even if your workout is only an hour long. Sports drinks may help increase the nutrient uptake and replenished depleted stores that the muscle require to perform.

Cool Down

So you’ve finished the workout/exercise, so no need to worry, right? Wrong. Post exercise cool down routines can prevent the likelyhood of future injury. Since the muscles are still above resting normal temperatures at this point, stretch the muscles after the exercise. Often, people have attributed this to reduced soreness as well.

Symptoms of a Muscle Tear

It is often noted that a “pop” can be heard when a muscle tears, or even sometimes a tearing sound that can be compared to ripping fabric. You will notice swelling of the area, bruising and redness, and even possibly open cuts. Pain at rest, pain around the specific joint in relation to the muscle, muscle weakness, or an inability to use the muscle at all will also be seen.

If there is no relief within 24 hours, then it’s a good idea to call your doctor. Surgery might be required. Your doctor will conduct an exam that will establish whether the muscle is partially torn, or completely torn, and proceed from there. Some minor tears may not require surgery, but simply rehabilitation that requires rest to allow the muscle to heal, and slowly rehabilitating and incorporating exercises that allow you to work around the injury.

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