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Muscles strains and sprains. Why do they occur?

A lot of our physical function whether that be engaging in sport, doing our daily activities or exercising regularly involve movement and subsequently require us to use our muscles to perform these activities. Often, if we push too hard while doing these things we can end up with a muscle strain or sprain.

This could be a corky in the hamstring while we’re sprinting during footy practice, tension in our neck and shoulders while sitting for 8 hours at our desk-based job staring at the computer or tightness and discomfort in our chest and shoulders after trying to push a PR on the bench press at the gym! While all these movements, motions and postures are different, what they do have in common is the activity in question exceeds the capacity of the muscle that is strained.

Capacity can be a different parameter or requirement of the muscle. In the above scenarios we are looking for power and speed of contraction in the hamstring if we are sprinting, whereas we might be looking at endurance in the neck and shoulder muscles to maintain posture for a set period of time if we are sitting to work at our computer for an extended period. In stark contrast, we are looking to produce strength and power when aiming for that bench press PR!

Although the parameters differ and so do the underlying activity, what is important to understand is there is a mismatch in the requirement of the activity and the ability for the muscle to produce that power, speed, endurance, strength etc. When this happens and the requirements of the activity outweigh the capacity of the muscle, this is where muscle strains and sprains happen.

Understanding this helps us to develop a rehabilitation protocol for each scenario and individual that is distinct and relevant to the activity or task that they want to re-engage in. In this way, we can build a more robust hamstring that is trained for agility and power, increased endurance in our neck and postural muscles that serve us when we need to work at our desk and strong pectoralis and shoulder muscles that can support the load we want to press during that bench press PR!

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