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Hamstring versus muscle strain - What's the difference?

introduction

Injuries to muscles occur especially in sports with fast movement and speed changes. Here, muscle strain and torn muscle fibers are common injuries in people who are physically active.
The difference between the two injuries lies above all in the temporal appearance of the symptoms and in the duration of the recovery.

Differentiation of different forms of muscle injuries

Where exactly is the difference between a muscle strain, a torn muscle, a torn muscle and a torn muscle?
All are typical and common sports injuries.

To understand the distinction between the individual injuries, one must first deal with the basic structure of a muscle.
Each muscle consists of a large number of smallest functional units, the so-called sarcomeres. Each sarcomere can contract, so contract, and relax again.

However, since the force that a single sarcomere can build up is not very large, several sarcomeres usually contract together. Many sarcomeres together form a muscle fibril. Multiple muscle fibrils combine to form a muscle fiber and many muscle fibers become a muscle fiber bundle. Ultimately, each muscle results from many individual such muscle fiber bundles.

The structure of each muscle is therefore ordered according to strict rules. The difference in the various injuries lies in the extent of the damage, which can be understood well with the background knowledge to build a muscle. If one or more sarcomeres are overstressed or overstretched and thus come to harm, resulting in a muscle strain. The actual muscle structure is still intact and there are no torn structures, nevertheless, the muscle is injured and hurts.

In case of greater overload, a rupture of several adjacent fibrils, ie a torn muscle fiber, may occur.
If the damage is even stronger, all fibers of a muscle fiber bundle may tear; one speaks briefly of a muscle tear.
In the worst case, all muscle fiber bundles of a muscle are overloaded and injured at the same time. Tearing all muscle fiber bundles results in a complete muscle tear. All fibrils and fibers and bundles and are then damaged.
The distinction between a muscle strain and the different cracks is therefore unavoidable from a medical point of view, if a muscle injury is to be correctly classified and diagnosed. Even the correct name of the injury allows a rough overview of the severity of the same.

How can you tell yourself if there is a muscle strain or a torn muscle?

Muscle strains and minor tears of muscle usually cause a very similar complaint in the affected person, so that the exact distinction can make difficult. Nevertheless, there are indications and signs that can serve as a rule of thumb for non-medical practitioners as well.
Since muscle damage causes the smallest units to be damaged, but the basic structure of the muscle is preserved, the perceived discomfort, especially the pain, often improves slightly with gentle stretching. If stretching has a soothing effect on the symptoms, the affected person can usually expect muscle strain.

Stress and tension of the injured muscle, on the other hand, hurts both in strains and in all muscle tears.
While a hamstring or even a complete muscle tear in most cases very suddenly triggers the greatest pain, the pain of a strain may initially seem bearable, in order to strengthen even further. Increasing pain speak so rather against a tear in the muscle tissue.

Visible bumps or dents on the affected muscle in almost every case speak for an injury that goes beyond a pure strain. Even a complete loss of function - that is, the muscle can not be tense even under pain - is very suspicious and should be checked by a doctor.

Last but not least, the recovery time provides an indication of the nature of the previous injury. While after muscle strain the affected muscle can be slowly and easily loaded again after 2-3 days of protection, and after about a week no more symptoms are noticed, a torn muscle fiber requires significantly more time to heal or improve. If the pain and swelling have not disappeared for a few days, and if the corresponding area has not been cooled, you can expect a muscle (fiber) rupture (duration of a torn muscle) and, for safety's sake, consult a doctor.

How is the diagnosis made?

The exact determination of the type of muscle injury should be made by a physician, even if there are clear signs. Even if the injured person already has a suspicion, an experienced doctor may see some things a little more closely. The diagnosis is made after a detailed medical history, that is, after an exact interview with the patient and some examinations.

In the conversation is the accident, including the injury mechanism, the nature and strength of the pain, but also the training load of the patient and his fitness level of importance. Particular attention is paid to past injuries to muscles, tendons and bones.

In addition to a detailed examination of the injured body part (also in the page comparison to the healthy side!) And the careful scanning, physical examination also includes a rough examination of the reflexes of the potentially damaged muscle. Also, the objective review of the remaining strength of the muscle by the doctor and a stance and gait review followed. Under certain circumstances, a specific restraint during running already shows the exact location of the injury.

After completion of the physical examination, the attending physician can also rely on sonography, ie the ultrasound examination, to ensure his suspicion. Especially with larger cracks in muscle tissue they are clearly visible in the ultrasound image.

If no clear diagnosis can be made even after completion of all these examinations, a magnetic resonance tomography (MRI) may possibly be considered, with which one can very well represent muscle and soft tissue injuries. Basically, this method is reserved for more complex, ambiguous cases and professional athletes and is normally not needed.

What is the difference in therapy?

The two elementary differences in the treatment of muscle strains and muscle (fiber) cracks result from already mentioned characteristics of the different injuries.
Since in a pure muscle strain the basic structure of the muscle is still intact, a slight stretch of the affected muscle can be perceived as pleasant and pain-relieving.

Muscle tears are on the contrary. Stretching usually does not relieve the pain but adds to it. The actual injury is exacerbated with every strain and strain. Muscle tears - no matter what extent - you should under any circumstances even further stretch.

Nevertheless, the cornerstone of the therapy should continue to be protection, high-altitude storage and cooling.
Under this form of therapy results the second important difference in the therapy of strains and muscle (fiber) tears. Because the injuries are associated with varying degrees of damage, they simply take a different amount of time to complete healing.
While a recovery can be felt within a few days and there is no need for further therapy after about a week, a therapy with larger muscle tears can take months.

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