All of us have suffered from muscular aches and pains at some point in our life. These are often caused by unaccustomed use or over usage of ligaments, tendons, or the soft tissues which connect the muscles.
However, when muscle pain is severe, it can be accompanied by some form of swelling or even restricted movement, which can indicate that the muscles, tendons, or ligaments have been damaged, torn, sprained, or even strained – most commonly as a result of some trauma or a sports injury.
Before considering treatment, you should consider whether the pain is stemming from overuse of the muscles or if it is a result of something serious, such as an injury. If you suspect that you have injured yourself, it is advised that you follow the RICER approach as soon as possible as described further below
When To See A Doctor
Sometimes further detailed investigation by a health professional is recommended, even if the findings confirm there is nothing seriously wrong. You should see your doctor or pharmacist immediately if any of the following apply;
- You have a serious loss of movement with the muscle ache
- You cannot put any weight on your joint
- You think the injured area appears deformed
- You are suffering from severe pain, and the area feels warm or swollen
- You are having accompanying symptoms such as morning joint stiffness, numbness, or fever
- The pain stems from a back injury or a lower back pain which is spreading to your legs
- The pain worsens throughout the day
- The pain persists for more than one week
- The patient suffering from the pain is a child or senior, as they may be more sensitive or unable to take certain medications
- The patient is pregnant or breastfeeding, as some medicines are unsuitable to take in these conditions
Treating the Muscle Pain
Most of the time, general muscle aches, stiffness, or soreness caused by an overuse of the muscles can be relieved by simple anti-inflammatory gels or heat rubs which are available to purchase over the counter. Some experts also recommend a combination of gentle exercise, massage, and medication to restore mobility. However, to avoid aggravating the condition further, you should avoid heat, alcohol, exercise, and massage for the first three days as they can limit healing if undertaken too early. If the pain is in your back, you should ensure you adopt a good posture and appropriate lifting methods in the future to prevent further pain.
The RICER approach is recommended within the first two to three days after a sprain, strain and soft tissue injury;
- R – Rest and avoid further physical activity
- I – Ice the affected area for up to twenty minutes every two hours
- C – Compress and wrap the area with a firm yet elastic bandage, and only loosen if you have sensations of numbness
- E – Elevate and rest the injured limb, such as on a chair or a cushion
- R – Refer to a doctor for a professional medical opinion and care to improve your chances of a full recovery
Once the swelling has finally reduced and you feel your injury has healed, you can begin exercises, which can strengthen and promote flexibility in the affected area. Remember to always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.