What's The Recovery Time For Muscular Injuries?
Injuries are one of the biggest enemies of athletes. They force athletes to take a break from their sporting practice and are normally quite painful. After suffering an injury, the recovery time for the affected muscle will depend on how serious the injury is.
Of course, a health professional should always supervise the recovery process. In this article, we’ll take a look at the most common types of muscular injuries and their recovery times.
Contusion and recovery times
A muscular contusion simply means receiving a hit. In these circumstances, the muscle is slightly damaged by a direct impact, which can result in a bruise.
The recovery time will depend on the seriousness of the blow received; it can take from a few minutes to several days. Contusions can be the mildest muscular injury.
The next level of severity is cramp. The muscle contracts suddenly and involuntarily for a few seconds. In this state, the athlete isn’t able to control it and must wait until the contractions stop trying to stretch the muscle.
After this happens, the athlete can then continue. But if the muscle has already cramped once, it’s likely to do so again when they resume playing sport. Therefore, specialists recommend pausing the practice at that moment and resuming it the following day, or several hours later.
To prevent cramps, we should keep warm, stay hydrated, and not overwork the muscle or push it beyond its limits.
Spasm: recovery times
Spasms are similar to cramps but are prolonged, as explained in various academic publications on the topic. When having a muscle spasm, you’ll notice a strong and involuntary contraction of a muscle, and you won’t be able to relax it.
The recovery time for muscles affected by spasms can take several days, but this will depend on the number of muscle fibers that have been affected.
The next muscular injury we’ll discuss is distention. This occurs when the muscle is stretched suddenly, or too much, in a way that causes damage to its fibers.
There are three grades of muscular distention. The severity of an injury determines which category it falls into. Assuming that you follow the recovery advice properly, distention can take one to three weeks to fully heal.
You can lead a normal life before that since physical exercises will be added in the recovery process. However, it’s important to wait for a full recovery before returning to sport.
These two final categories are the most serious. We’ll start with partial tears. For these injuries, several packets of muscular fibers break, but the muscle’s integrity isn’t damaged. You’ll notice a sharp pain and will have difficulties moving the affected muscle. There will also be bruising and inflammation.
Partial breakages also fall into three categories depending on how many fibers have been affected. If you suffer a grade I partial tear, it can take 8-10 days to recover. Grade II partial tears can take 2-3 weeks, and for grade III it can take around a month.
A complete tear is when the muscle splits, into two or more parts. If this happens, you’ll notice an intense pain and be unable to move the affected area properly.
Each part of the muscle will be pulled by the tendons towards its corresponding bone, leaving a hole where the muscle used to be. Sometimes referred to as a hatchet injury.
After suffering a complete tear the muscle can take months to heal. The injury will require surgery to re-join the parts of the muscle that have separated. Following that, you’ll then begin the long process of recovery, and in order to avoid relapse, you must follow it exactly.
The injury dictates the muscle’s recovery time
As discussed in this article, there are many kinds of muscular injury. Each one has its own clinical profile and recovery time. For this reason, as long as it’s not a simple cramp, it’s recommended to visit a specialist.
A professional will be able to do all the necessary tests to identify the exact injury since all can cause pain and inflammation. Yes, there are telling signs of what the injury may be, but someone without the necessary training may not be able to discern between distention and a partial tear, for example.
It’s also worth reiterating that you should follow recovery advice properly. If you return to sports too early, it’s very easy to damage the muscle again.
- V. Nsitem. Diagnosis and rehabilitation of gastrocnemius muscle tear: a case report. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2013;57(4):327-333.
- G. Serratrice. Contracturas musculares. EMC. 2011; 32 (2): 1-11
- M. A. Cardero. Lesiones musculares en el mundo del deporte. e-balonmano.com: Revista de Ciencias del Deporte. 2008; 4 (1): 13 – 19