Muscle Contusions and Cramps
What are bruises?
Also called contusions, bruises occur when small blood vessels under the skin’s surface are broken. When blunt trauma occurs, it causes tissue and cell damage as well as bleeding within the muscle. Blood escapes from damaged capillaries and seeps into the tissues. Inflammation initiates macrophage action and phagocytosis of debris, which helps with muscle regeneration.
What causes bruises?
Bruising can occur to the skin, muscle, and bone. Bruises result from vigorous exercise, trauma to the body, or from medications. A nutritional deficiency of iron or vitamin B12 can lead to anemia, which makes bruising more likely.
How common are bruises?
Contusions comprise around 65% of all sports-related injuries. Most bruises go unreported and untreated. The gastrocnemius (calf) muscles and the quadriceps (thigh) muscles are most often bruised. Direct blows are less frequent than indirect ones (strain), and many athletes can return to full activity soon after a strain.
Which muscles are more susceptible to bruising?
Skeletal muscle comprises 45% of the total body weight. Muscles that cross a single joint are close to the bone, and are at most risk for contusions. The larger muscles that go between two joints are more susceptible to stretch-induced strains.
How are contusions treated?
Following the initial bruising, the goal of therapy is to decrease hemorrhage, reduce inflammation, and control pain. This involves the “RICE” formula: limb immobilization and rest (R), use of ice packs (I), wearing a compression (C) bandage (Ace wrap), and elevating (E) the extremity. RICE is done for the first 24 hours for minor bruises, and for 48 hours for more severe contusions.
Once the bruise is stable, heat is used to break up the blood from the tissue and to get it back into circulation. For serious thigh contusions, the client may use crutches, as weight-bearing can be extremely painful. A contusion will generally stabilize after 2-3 days.
What are muscle spasms?
Muscle spasms (cramps) are involuntary contracting of the muscle. Spasms can be mildly annoying or excruciatingly painful. They can only last a few seconds, or they may persist for hours. Some muscle cramps are so severe that they cause tissue bruising of the surrounding area.
What causes muscle cramps?
During exercise, the muscles require the proper amounts of hydration, nutrients, and electrolytes to function. Without these elements, cramping can occur. The causes of muscle cramps include:
- Nutritional deficiency
- Strenuous exercise
- Electrolyte depletion
What does a muscle cramp feel like?
Often called a “charley horse,” a muscle cramp is a sudden intense pain causes by spasming muscle tissue. The cramp results from a forcibly contracted muscle that will not relax.
What muscles are prone to cramps?
Cramps affect any muscle that is under voluntary control (the skeletal muscles). The muscles that lie between two joints are most prone to cramps. Muscle spasms can involve a group of muscles or only a portion of the muscle. The most commonly affected muscle groups include:
- Back of the thigh (the hamstrings)
- Back of the lower leg (the gastrocnemius)
- Front of the thigh (the quadriceps)
- Foot muscles
- Abdominal region
Who is at risk for muscle cramps?
Just about everyone has muscle cramps at some point during life. Sometimes, the slightest movement will trigger a muscle cramp. They also can happen during exercise, such as playing tennis or golf, bowling, or swimming. Those at most risk for muscle cramps include:
- People over the age of 65 years
- Young children
- Overweight individuals
- People on diuretics (water pills)
- Endurance athletes (runners and triathletes)
How are muscle cramps treated?
The first thing to do is stop what activity you are doing that triggered the cramping. Gently massage and stretch the cramping muscle, holding it in a stretched position until the pain eases. Apply heat to a tight, tense muscle, and apply ice packs to a sore muscle. Whirlpool therapy can be used to recover from cramps and contusions.
OSPI offers top sports medicine treatment for all types of contusions, sprains, strains and full ligament tears. Options include stem cell therapy, orthopedic surgery, pain management, physical therapy and more. Most insurance is accepted, call us today!