When a person experiences soreness in his muscles on getting up in the morning, it is probably because he exercised these muscles the previous day. During each muscle contraction, muscle fibers are stretched. And when the person stops using these stretched muscles, they may become swollen, stiff and sore hours later. Tiny tears may occur in the muscle fibers as a result of strenuous exercise. The swelling is actually a part of the healing process as the person rests these muscles.
Overexertion has always been known as a common cause of muscle injuries, such as a pulled muscle, a ruptured muscle, or a hamstring strain. In a pulled muscle, tiny tears occur in some of the fibers of the muscle that has been overstretched; pain and swelling follow. A seldom-used basketball player, for example, who has not warmed up sufficiently and then suddenly fielded into the game by his coach, may find himself suffering a pulled muscle.
In a ruptured muscle, there is partial or complete separation of the muscle from the bone or tendon; the pulled muscle has very little or no strength. While a pulled muscle usually heals quickly and uneventfully, a badly ruptured muscle may require surgery to repair the damage.
A hamstring strain is somewhat different from the two muscle injuries mentioned above in that it actually refers to injuries to not just a single muscle but to a group of muscles – the hamstring. Together, the hamstring muscles fill and provide power at the back of the thigh. But the muscles in this group are weaker than those which make up the front of the thigh (the quadriceps muscles). This lack of balance in strength between the hamstring muscles and the quadriceps muscles sometimes leads to oppressive muscle injuries. A hamstring strain may occur particularly in cold weather, when a person’s muscles are tight. Under such a condition, one of the hamstring muscles (or its tendons) may tear.
Those who have suffered a hamstring strain know that this muscle injury is difficult to treat. It is important to stop whatever activity caused the injury. Applying immediately an ice pack to the affected area is basic. Also, the person suffering from a hamstring strain should take warm baths and extended rest. The process of rehabilitation may include moderate stretching exercises, but the person must guard against subsequent muscle pulls.
As muscle injuries are an all too common problem among athletes, it is necessary to stress repeatedly the importance of prevention by means of proper conditioning, as well as doing warming-up and cooling-down exercises. This will ensure balanced development of the hamstring muscles and the quadriceps muscles.
1. “That Painful Pull” – http://www.sportsdoctor.com/articles/muscle.html
2. Pulled Hamstring/Hamstring Strain” – http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/cybertherapist/back/hamstrings/hamstringstrain.htm
3. “Hamstring Injury in Depth” – http://www.physioroom.com/injuries/hip_and_thigh/hamstring_strain_full.php