Contractures are continuous and involuntary contractions of either the muscle or some of its fibers. These contractures often appear in athletes, and may do it during or after exercise. A contracture occurs when there is an accumulation of metabolites, which are the cause of pain and inflammation. This happens when there is no blood supply enough for debugging, causing them to focus on the muscle. Another reason for contractures is excessive fatigue of the muscle fibers, after ending an exercise.
Although athletes are more likely to have contractures due to muscular effort, anyone can have them when exposed to the following causes:
- An effort as lifting or pushing something heavy.
- Conduct where the muscle is working inappropriately either in intensity or function.
- An effort perhaps not very strong but long lasting, like riding a bicycle for a long time when not used to it or a long and excessive walking.
- When there is strong accumulation of tension in certain areas due to intellectual or emotional pressures. The constant fear and anxiety can cause contractions.
- Lack of a vitamin or nutrient due to poor nutrition.
- Muscle tremors
- Severe pain in the affected muscle
- Lump and hardening of the affected muscle
- Alteration of normal muscle function
A cramp is not the same thing as a contracture
One must learn to distinguish between a contraction and a cramp. In contractures, there is increase in muscle tone, muscle shortening, minimization of metabolism, decreased performance capacity, pressure pain and/or contraction stress and inflammation in the affected area. A general contraction is when it appears in a muscle group or groups that span an area or joint, as in the case of torticollis, a general contraction of the shoulder and neck, or even the lumbago.
The most important thing is to try to prevent it, and it is recommended for sportsmen and persons who perform extreme physical exertion that before the work routine, they should do a good warm up to prepare the muscle for effort.
Progressive flexibility exercises are great for helping get a good muscle. Also, consider schedule an exercise routine gradually, i.e. start with soft routines and go increasing the weight and effort.
What to do in case of a contraction?
If you suffer from a contraction, the best is to visit a physiotherapist. Some people react when having a massage in the contracture, but this is not desirable because if the massage is not appropriate, it could hurt the muscle and worsen the situation. You should consume drugs or medications, you must evaluate the type of contracture before, and only a professional can do it.
Some steps you can take to help relax the muscle:
- Apply local heat through hot compresses placed over the area of contractures.
- Provide the person with an analgesic tea or a relaxing infusion as marjoram, chamomile, anise, peppermint, etc.
Home remedies to treat contractures
These remedies can be applied and are of great help while you get the help of the physiotherapist:
Willow poultices: an infusion is made by putting one tablespoon of willow leaves in a cup of cold water. Put in the fire, boil and strain. Soak a clean washcloth, wet in the infusion and apply in the affected area.
Arnica ointment: Apply in the affected area without pressure.
Herbal ointment of rosemary or thyme: it is an infusion of two tablespoons of each in a half cup of hot water. Boil and off, let rest a minute and strain. Mix with a little green clay until you get a very light and soft paste. Apply the paste directly onto the affected area; apply it warm but not too much. Leave in the muscle about 20 minutes and then remove.
Massage: Avoid doing a massage if you don’t know how, if there is very intense pain, you can help lower a bit the contracture and pain by pinching with your whole hand on the affected muscle, gently pull the muscle in all your hand without much pressure, hold for a few seconds and repeat. This will help supply blood to the muscle, the physiotherapist will see that with massage the muscle is recovered and the metabolites are gone, as well as to help the muscle to relax completely.
Muscle rehabilitation: Once the contracture has passed, you must perform certain muscle rehabilitation exercises for the muscle to return to normal activity. These exercises are to perform stretching or flexibility exercises daily or special water exercises.
Rehabilitation and alternative therapies: hydrotherapy, yoga, massage.