Muscle strain is another name for a pulled muscle. It occurs when a muscle is overstretched and tears. Symptoms of a pulled muscle may include pain, swelling, weakness, and difficulty or inability to use the muscle. Muscles in the quadriceps, the calves, hamstrings, groin, low back, and shoulder are the most common sites for pulled muscles.
Minor muscle strains resolve with RICE — Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help manage pain and swelling as well. More serious muscle strains require evaluation and treatment by a doctor.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) helps hold the knee joint together and provides stability. A torn ACL is a sports injury that may occur when landing the wrong way, changing direction or stopping quickly, or from a direct blow to the knee. People who suffer a torn ACL may hear a pop and then feel their knee no longer functions. Pain, swelling, and loss of range of motion are symptoms of a torn ACL.
It may be difficult to walk. A torn ACL needs to be reconstructed surgically, usually using a graft from another ligament in the patient’s own body. Significant rehabilitation is necessary to restore the strength and function of the knee joint after surgery. Depending on the age, health status, and desired activity level of the patient, some may not elect to have surgery. In that case, braces and physical therapy will not cure the condition, but may provide some relief.
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) connects the upper leg bone (femur) to the larger bone of the lower leg (tibia). It is located on the inner side of the knee. The MCL is typically injured when the knee joint is pushed sideways when making a wrong move or by receiving a direct blow to the knee.
A torn MCL results in pain, swelling, and instability of the joint. The condition is often treated with ice, bracing, and physical therapy. If other structures in the knee are injured or if the torn MCL is severe, surgery may be recommended.
Shin splints are throbbing, aching, or stabbing pain on the insides of the lower leg. Shin splints are a repetitive use injury that may occur in runners or those who are beginning to exercise. Pain occurs when muscles and tendons around the tibia (the larger of the two lower leg bones) become inflamed.
Stretching, resting, and applying ice can help relieve shin splints. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce pain and swelling. Bandaging the area may help prevent swelling. Flat feet increase the risk of shin splints. Orthotics and proper athletic shoes may offer support and decrease the risk of shin splints.
A stress fracture is an overuse injury that occurs when muscles are no longer able to absorb the impact from physical activity, and a bone absorbs the pressure, resulting in a break. Stress fractures can occur when increasing activity, especially too quickly. The majority of stress fractures occur in the lower legs and feet.
Women are more prone to stress fractures than men. Stress fractures cause pain with activity. Rest is prescribed to allow a stress fracture to heal. Sometimes a special shoe or a brace helps decrease stress on the bone, which facilitates healing.
The plantar fascia is a ligament that connects the heel to the front of the foot, supporting the arch. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of this ligament. It causes heel pain often felt the first thing in the morning after getting out of bed or after being active. Stress and strain on the feet increases the risk of plantar fasciitis. Obesity, tight calf muscles, repetitive use, high arches, and new athletic activities are all risk factors for this condition.
Plantar fasciitis is treated with rest, ice, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and special stretching exercises. Cushioning insoles may provide relief. Wearing splints at night may help decrease pain. More severe cases of plantar fasciitis may be treated with cortisone injections, physical therapy, and surgery.
A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments that support the joint become overstretched. Ankle sprains may occur when playing sports or doing everyday activities. Stepping wrong on an uneven surface or stepping in a way that twists or rolls the foot may lead to an ankle sprain.
Sprains and the pain they cause may range from mild to severe. RICE — rest, ice, compression, and elevation — are used to treat ankle sprains. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can alleviate pain and swelling. Severe sprains may require a brace or cast for several weeks to facilitate healing.
Tennis elbow is an overuse injury that may be associated with playing racket sports. Plumbers, painters and those in similar professions are also at risk. Tennis elbow involves inflammation of the tendons on the outside of the elbow caused by small tears. Tennis elbow causes pain and may be associated with a weak grip. Rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help alleviate tennis elbow symptoms.
Wearing a special brace on the forearm may help decrease pressure on the sore area. Physical therapy may be helpful. Steroid injections can decrease inflammation. Surgery may be an option for tennis elbow when other treatments have failed.