By Dan Williams, Contributing writer

Muscle injuries are common and most individuals experience at least one of these in their lifetime. Muscle injuries are usually classified as sprains and strains. Severe injuries are tears to the muscle fibers or a rupture of the tendon where the muscle inserts on the bone.

Conditioning or stretching before exercise is very important to decrease the incident of injuries occurring. Many injuries occur due to pushing ourselves to the limit or overworking a muscle group. When a muscle is injured it is very painful and uncomfortable. It will hurt with any motion or stress to that area. Extremity injuries are particularly a problem since we are using them in most aspects of daily life. A tear or rupture is evident by the area turning black and blue, swelling at the site of injury, and sometimes numbness experienced farther away from the site.

This numbness is due to pressure on the nerves from the swelling. The vast majority of muscle injuries are benign and easily treated without the assistance of a health care provider.

Recommended treatment for your common muscle strains and sprains are as follows:

1. Apply ice to the injured area.

2. Elevate to decrease swelling.

3. Wrapping sometimes helps with the pain, but be careful not to wrap too tight.

4. Pain relief is helpful with over the counter medication. Ibuprofen helps not only with pain, but with inflammation. Acetaminophen helps with the pain only. Avoid using aspirin as it can make bleeding worse.

5. Try to immobilize or not use that muscle group. Any increased motion or activity will increase the pain and delay healing. Try thinking about muscle injuries as ankle sprains. The more you use the injured ankle, the longer it will take to heal.

6. Proper rehabilitation. Once the muscle starts improving, slowly start working that area. When you get to a level of movement without much pain, you can slowly increase weight and range of motion.

7. Heat has its place in muscle strains. Most health care providers recommend using heat a week or two weeks after resolution. Ice constricts blood vessels and decreases swelling. Heat dilates blood vessels and can actually increase swelling in the acute injury phase.

Should there be no improvement in one to two weeks of appropriate treatment and rest, then one should seek out a health care provider. With good judgment and proper care, one can minimize all injuries. Condition yourself. Take exercising slowly and gradually increase your training. With this implementation, many can decrease the incidence of muscle injuries.