Orthopedic diseases 2022

Muscle contracture: what é, types, symptoms and treatment

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Muscle contracture: what é, types, symptoms and treatment
Muscle contracture: what é, types, symptoms and treatment

Muscle contracture occurs due to an exaggerated muscle stiffness or contraction, which makes the muscle unable to relax. Contractures can happen in different parts of the body, such as the neck, cervical or thigh, for example, and can occur after practicing a very strong exercise, by making some sudden movement, by a bad night's sleep or by excess tension in the body caused by stress.

The contracture causes pain, discomfort and often limits movement. In most cases, it can be easily felt when the hand is placed over the muscle and a more painful and rigid part is noted.

Usually, some simple measures can be done at home to improve pain and discomfort, such as applying hot water bottles or massaging the affected muscle. However, if the pain does not improve, seek medical help and start the most appropriate treatment.

Main types and symptoms of contracture

Some symptoms may indicate the presence of a muscle contracture such as pain and discomfort or the presence of a ball or lump in the muscle. However, symptoms may vary according to how the contracture appears and, mainly, according to the affected muscle.

The main types of muscle contracture are:

1. Lumbar contracture

Lumbar muscle contracture affects the lumbar region which is the lower part of the back and can occur due to an effort that produces an overload on the muscles of this region such as poor posture at work or when sleeping, lifting a heavy object way, excessive efforts in physical activities or for making some sudden movement, for example.

This type of contracture starts with a slight discomfort in the lower back that can gradually worsen, causing intense pain, which can interfere with day-to-day activities. However, symptoms of lumbar contracture usually improve within a few weeks.

2. Cervical contracture

Cervical muscle contracture affects the neck caused by stiffness in the scapula muscles or scapula trapezius muscle and can occur from muscle trauma due to carrying excess weight on the shoulders such as bags or backpacks, not warming up before physical exercises, or for muscular weakness or stress, for example.

This type of contracture can cause severe neck pain, and sometimes this pain can radiate into the arm and cause tingling, loss of arm strength, or difficulty moving the head, neck, or arm.

3. Shoulder contracture

Shoulder contracture affects the trapezius or rhomboid muscles and can occur due to stress, tiredness or poor posture such as spending a lot of time in front of the computer keeping the shoulders raised for a long time, for example. This type of contracture can cause pain in your right shoulder or left shoulder, which can make it difficult to move your arm.

4. Calf contracture

Calf contracture affects the gastrocnemius or soleus muscles of the calf and occurs due to excessive physical exertion in sports activities such as running or soccer, for example, due to the accumulation of lactic acid produced by the muscles during physical exercise or by dehydration that causes an imbalance of electrolytes that control muscle contraction.

This type of contracture causes pain, spasms in the muscles that can become stiff and form a lump in the muscle that can be felt by palpation.

5. Thigh contracture

Thigh contracture can affect the muscles of the front, back or sides of the thigh and can occur from physical activities such as running, soccer or weight training, for example due to lack of stretching and warming up before exercise physical exercise or weakness, fatigue and muscle imbalance.

This type of contracture can cause muscle pain and stiffness and, in more severe cases, loss of mobility and withdrawal from physical activity for a while.

6. Back contracture

Back contracture can affect any region of the back and usually occurs due to poor posture, for a long time sitting in the same position at work or driving, or standing for a long time, for example. These lifestyle habits cause muscle shortening and increase the risk of back contracture.

This type of contracture can cause muscle stiffness, pain, and the formation of a lump in the muscle that can be felt on palpation.

How the treatment is done

Treatment of muscle contracture can be done at home and includes:

  • Take a bath with very hot water, letting the hot water jet fall directly on the contracture region;
  • Use a hot water bottle or heated damp towel on the painful area for 15 to 20 minutes, 2 to 3 times a day;
  • Massage the area of ​​contracture with strong, circular movements using a moisturizing cream or relaxing essential oil, especially if you feel a lump or lump;
  • Do some stretches, which allow you to stretch and exercise the affected muscle, because although these stretches may initially cause some pain, they will help to relieve tension in the region of the contracture, helping to relax the muscle.

In addition, in periods of greater fatigue, when there is a lot of muscle tension and the contractures are recurrent, you can also use an anti-inflammatory ointment, such as Cataflam emulgel or Voltaren emulgel, which must be passed directly on the muscle affected.

In cases where the above measures are not sufficient, it is important to consult a general practitioner or orthopedist who can prescribe medications to relax the muscles such as Miosan or Dorflex, or anti-inflammatory drugs taken orally such as ibuprofen or diclofenac, for example.These remedies, in addition to helping you relax, also help relieve pain and sleep better, as their relaxing effect on the muscles favors sleep and body rest.

If the contracture still does not go away and the symptoms persist for more than 7 days, you should go back to the doctor or look for a physical therapist, as in this case you may have a more serious contracture that requires medical follow-up and physical therapy.

Learn how physical therapy is performed for muscle contracture.

Signs of improvement

Signs of improvement in contracture are pain relief, increased range of motion, and decreased tenderness in the affected region. The muscle becomes more flexible and less painful.

Signs of worsening

Signs of worsening that may occur are the permanence of the contracture, which becomes larger and more painful, and the formation of fibrosis in the region of the contracture, which can only be resolved with physiotherapy sessions.Depending on the location of the contracture, pain may radiate to other locations and a tingling sensation when the nerve is affected.

There can be worsening when treatment is not followed correctly and when the cause of the contracture has not been eliminated and therefore it is important to rest during treatment.

How to avoid muscle contractures

To avoid muscle contractures, there are some tips such as:

  • Warm up before exercising;
  • Stretching after physical activity;
  • Sleep with a low pillow or no pillow if sleeping on your back or side;
  • Avoiding stress and worries, trying to relax whenever possible;
  • Correct your posture and always walk or sit with your back and torso straight. See how to correct bad posture;
  • Avoid sudden movements or exaggerated physical efforts;
  • Do not cross your legs while sitting for long periods of time.
  • Stretching at least 2 times during working hours if you work sitting for long periods.

Sedentary lifestyle also contributes to the appearance of muscle contractures, so it is recommended to practice some physical activity such as swimming or pilates, for example, to help strengthen muscles and relieve accumulated stress and tension.

Watch the video with tips on how to stretch.

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