I love soccer! I've played since I was a little girl. But there is one thing I don't like about soccer: pulled muscles. Pulled or strained muscles seem to be an inevitable part of soccer for me. Usually after some rest and more thorough stretching before the next game, I don't have a problem for the rest of the season. But no such luck this year; I have a lingering muscle strain that won't heal properly. It is one of the most frustrating things I have dealt with in terms of my physical fitness in a very long time!
Soccer season starts at the beginning of May and many of my past injuries happened during the first game when it is often cold at night making it hard to properly warm up and stretch. But this year it was the third game. I had a good warm up and stretch before hand. During a sprint down the field, I pulled my quadriceps muscle. I've never pulled this muscle before, but it affects both fast sprints and kicking the ball up the field. It's hard to play to your fullest potential when an injury prevents you from doing so without excruciating pain. It's now July and I am still dealing with this muscle strain. I've iced it and let it rest for a couple of weeks. I've wrapped and stretched it before and after the games and throughout the week. I've tried to avoid activities or exercises that irritate the injury. But just when I think I've got it under control, I pull it again and I'm back to square one.
What happens when you pull a muscle? The term muscle strain means that either the muscle or tendons attaching the muscle have been damaged. This damage refers to actual tearing of the muscle fibres or tendon. Muscle tears can affect small blood vessels causing bleeding or bruising and the pain associated with muscle strain is due to the irritation of the nerve endings in the muscle or tendons(1). Factors that contribute to muscle strain are: poor conditioning, muscle fatigue and improper warm-up. The best way to treat a muscle strain is the R.I.C.E method which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. In order for a damaged muscle to heal properly, it needs rest. This often means avoiding activity that irritates the muscle. Ice helps with inflammation and is recommended for 20 minutes, four to eight times a day. When you wrap the injured muscle with an elastic bandage, the steady compression helps prevent swelling and inflammation leading to faster healing. Finally, elevating the injury to a level above your heart helps reduce swelling. People often take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen or aspirin for pain and inflammation. Once the muscle has healed, it is important to prevent it from recurring. Some preventative steps are: allowing the injury to heal properly, daily stretching, exercises to strengthen the muscle, proper warm-up, eating foods high in potassium to prevent muscle fatigue (bananas, avocados) and proper hydration(2). The most difficult thing for me was to let the injury rest. I took a few weeks off, but I don't like to sit out. I would much rather play, so I have been using a brace and wrapping my leg for support before each game. Even with the rest and preventative measures, I still have not experienced complete healing. I am also very active and exercise during the week, so taking a complete rest from all activities would be difficult for me.
eVitalilty.ca has a wide variety of pain relief products to get you back to enjoying your normal physical activities. There are topical and oral pain relievers available, as well as several different types of relief tape to provide support to different body parts without affecting mobility. Before my soccer season began I was out running. I took an awkward step and twisted my knee. The next day it was sore making it difficult to walk up and down the stairs. I had the opportunity to try Kalaya Kinetics Knee Support Relief tape and it helped provide the stability and support I needed to carry on with my daily activities. My knee wasn't swollen so I liked that it provided support without the bulk I would have had with a tensor bandage. For my current injury, one of my life savers has been Kalaya Relief Pain Rub. When I feel any soreness, I use the pain rub and it starts to work immediately. It numbs the pain and makes the muscle feel warm and relaxed. Ultimately, I may find that the only way to fully heal this injury is to rest by taking a few more weeks off from soccer. But I'm a stubborn girl and I like to play! My next game is coming up soon, so looks like I have a decision to make! To play or not to play?!