As participation in recreational and sporting activities has grown over the past several years, so has the number of injuries. Muscle injuries are a very common occurrence for people who are physically active. Often these injuries are just an unfortunate annoyance, but other times, they’re debilitating and take a long time to heal. Two of the more common muscle injuries are strains and cramps.
A muscle strain is an injury that occurs when the muscle is torn. A muscle tear can occur when the muscle itself is stretched too far and tears, or because so much tension is created when the maximal contraction occurs that tissue failure results.
Mild strains usually feel really tight and hurt when stretched. More severe strains may involve significant muscle damage and can be so painful that you’re unable to move. Some researchers believe that maintaining flexibility and warming up before activity can help to minimize your risk, although this point of view is challenged by many scientists.
A muscle cramp results when the muscle contracts maximally and then holds that contraction for a period of time. You can see when a muscle is contracted and won’t release. Performing at high levels or performing without appropriate nutrition or hydration may leave you with muscle cramps. If you’ve ever been running when your muscle suddenly ceases up and you feel like someone just hit you with a sledge hammer, you know how uncomfortable these injuries can be.
Some researchers believe the cramps occur because of poor hydration, electrolyte imbalances, or impact. Regardless of their cause, you should stop your activity until you’re well hydrated and the cramp has let up. After the cramp releases, it’s not uncommon for your muscle to be sore.