Pulled Muscles from Running
For something as simple as running, there sure is a lot that can go wrong. Runners know that, which is why they invest in quality shoes that are built to help protect the feet and legs. But runners should be investing in more than just shoes to prevent injuries. Pulled muscles from running are one of the most common injuries of those that affect over 50% of runners each year. It could be the hamstring, the hip flexors, the quad or something else. Once a muscle is pulled—or worse, torn—it’s even more vulnerable. For this reason, it’s so important for runners to learn how to protect themselves from pulled muscles from running and treat them correctly if they happens.
Pulled Muscles Explained
When a muscle pulls, the muscle fibers or the surrounding tendons become overstretched. This can be a mild pull, accompanied by minor pain and inflammation and a quick recovery. In worse cases, when the muscle over-stretches the fibers can actually undergo small tears. These types of pulled muscles from running or other sports will take longer to heal. In the very worst cases, a pulled muscle can become a torn muscle, which often requires surgery. As long as a runner is cautious and rests a muscle when needed, a torn muscle is usually avoidable.
There are multiple elements that can contribute to a runner pulling one of his or her muscles. One of these is fatigue, where the muscles are pushed beyond what they can handle. This makes them more likely to move in the wrong way, causing a pull or tear.
Our muscles are willing to work hard, as long as they’re prepared for the task at hand. This is why we train for marathons or other races rather than diving straight into a new distance or speed goal. However, many runners don’t consider how every day running can also overwhelm their muscles. Say, for instance, that you’re out on your run and you decide on a last minute whim to take a hilly route home. Hill running is such a great challenge. But if you don’t ease into it, you can bet that your muscles will suffer. They might experience muscle fatigue, putting them at risk for an injury like a pulled muscle.
As an athlete, it’s important to learn the difference between pushing yourself to your limit and pushing yourself beyond what you’re prepared for. Often times, pulled muscles from running—also referred to as strains—can develop gradually from overuse. So even if you take that hilly route and don’t feel pain right away, if you keep it up you may begin to notice that your muscle feels weaker or begins to ache excessively.
Other factors that can contribute to pulled muscles from running include muscle weakness and tightness. Running is so much more than just putting on you shoes and going. The best way to stay healthy and strong is to condition, stretch and warm-up properly.
How to Avoid Pulling a Muscle
Runners are a passionate bunch of athletes. When they’re ready to work out, all they want to do is run. It’s hard, sometimes, to take some of that time and put it towards something more stationary. If you’re struggling to find the will to spend time warming up and conditioning, have a little empathy for your body. When you run, you’re putting it through a lot of stress—and it’s amazing that it can handle it. With each step, the force is the equivalent of around 2.5 times your body weight. Do your bones and muscles a favor by preparing them for the task at hand.
Do this by strengthening your muscles with conditioning. You need to give your muscles a chance to build a stability that will serve you well when you run. Strengthen everything from your calves to your core, and leave nothing out. Your muscles not only work to move your bones, but they also protect your joints. The stronger your muscles are, the more stabile your joints will be. And the more stabile your joints are, the better your body will move, which is good news for your muscles, too.
For warm up, look into a dynamic stretching routine, as opposed to static stretching. Studies have shown that static stretching does little to no good for preparing our muscles for running. It’s more efficient to practice stretches that mimic the movements and range of motion that you’ll use in running (or whatever other sport you might do). While making the time for these routines might take away from the actual running, it’s worth preventing the time you might have to take to recover from pulled muscles from running otherwise.
Healing a Pulled Muscle
Even if you do all of the warm ups and dynamic stretching you can manage, it’s still possible to pull a muscle. But if you do, don’t panic. Step one on the road to recovery is to recognize it right away. Pulled muscles will be painful, particularly when that particular muscle is activated, and might be accompanied by swelling or tightness. If you’re experiencing bruising, you may have torn your muscle. Make an appointment with a doctor so that you can get a proper diagnosis.
Step two is to give your muscle a rest. Stay off of the muscle—use crutches if you need to—and keep it elevated when you can. Applying ice can reduce swelling and help relieve pain. In fact, make this your primary method of pain prevention. Lots of athletes are tempted to take anti-inflammatory painkillers, but these are actually detrimental to the healing process. Inflammation is part of the body’s way of dealing with injury, and without it the muscle won’t heal as well. If it feels ok, you can also us gentle massage to help improve blood flow to the area which will help with healing.
If, after 48 hours, the muscle still feels tender and tight, consider visiting a physical therapist. He or she will be able to help you work on your range of motion and increase your strength and stability. A physical therapist will also have great advice for those with more serious pulled muscles from running on how to cross train to promote healing and strengthening. Learn more about the program before signing to our affiliate subscription here.