Welcome back to the follow-up post on muscle strain & low back pain. As stated in my last post, muscles are primarily response organs. They react to the stresses placed upon them. If you use them poorly with bad mechanics, if you overwork them, if they are weak and other surrounding muscles/joints/connective tissue has to compensate, your body WILL break down. You hope you are not too severely injured and that it is the muscle that takes the brunt and is damaged.
Muscles, because of their rich blood supply, have a tendency to heal quickly with prompt stretching, rest, and soft tissue work. Conversely, overstretched ligaments, discs, nerves, and surrounding soft tissue do not heal as quickly. So, if you think you have a muscle strain, please don’t just lie down and take some Tylenol in hopes that it will just “go away.” By addressing the problematic tissue specifically and performing some guided movements and stretches, you can hopefully return to your normal activities quickly.
These 3 stretches (pictured left & above) are all gentle ways to stretch and mobilize guarded muscles. They should all be held for 20-30 seconds and repeated 2-3 times. You can do these throughout the day to help yourself move around easier. A GREAT adjunct to these stretches is soft tissue mobilization.
Soft tissue mobilization, more commonly (but not necessarily more accurately) labeled massage, is the process of breaking down collagen cross-links (scar tissue). By mobilizing and stretching connective tissue as well as muscle fibers that are bound down by this scar tissue, you allow your body to move more freely. Scar tissue limits range of motion which often leads to pain. I will often perform soft tissue mobilization with my hands or instrument-assisted via the Graston Technique®. This technique uses stainless steel instruments to help mobilize restricted tissue in a manner similar to what a therapist’s hand can provide, but with reverberation when the instrument glides over restricted tissue(s).
Now, without specialized soft tissue treatment from a qulaified professional, you are left to try it yourself. Again, nothing can take the place of a formal assessment and treatment by a PT, but here is something that may help many of you. GET A FOAM ROLLER! I have said this in multiple posts now, it is THE best thing you can get to help break up restrictions in your body. Perform these rolls over the areas that you feel most restricted in – anywhere from 30 second to 3 minute intervals. You can do these multiple times per day as well to help break down restrictions, minimize guarding, and eliminate pain.
These guided movements and self-soft tissue treatment can help to alleviate symptoms and keep your tissues flexible/pliable, which allows them to heal fast as well. Along with proper lifting mechanics and posture + some additional strengthening/stabilizing where needed, you can experience a quick and full recovery as well as help prevent future occurrences.