Muscles are made up of thousands of individual, microscopic fibers. When you pull a muscle, you're actually tearing some of the fibers.
The No. 1 treatment for a pulled muscle is RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation. 1. Stop exercising immediately. 2. Cover the injured area with a towel and apply an ice pack. 3. Wrap an elastic bandage loosely over the ice pack. 4. Raise the injured part above your heart. Remove the ice after 15 minutes and reapply it once an hour for the first few hours after the injury occurs.
You should not exercise the pulled muscle until you can do so without pain. When you do renew exercising, do it at a reduced intensity and volume and be sure to stop right away if you feel pain.
A few drugs -- anabolic steroids and clenbutarol -- can help a muscle pull heal faster. But anabolic steroids are taken in such massive doses that they can lower your good HDL cholesterol and increase your chances of developing a heart attack.
The low doses of clenbutarol are needed to hasten muscle healing appear safe, though. The drug is available in Europe but has not been approved for use in the United States.
Many people use athletic balms to soothe the pain of a muscle pull. These balms usually contain oil of wintergreen, a concentrated form of aspirin. It is absorbed through the skin and can reduce pain, but it will not hasten the healing process.
All of the anti-arthritic medications -- such as Motrin, Ansed, Tolectin -- and the generic ibuprofen and butazolidine also help alleviate pain but do not hasten healing.
Furthermore, injections of cortisone-like drugs can block pain and reduce swelling, but they may actually delay healing.
Q: My 20-year-old daughter has been jogging regularly for several months in an effort to lose weight. Will all that exercise and weight change affect her menstrual periods?
A: Recent studies show recreational exercise, such as jogging, does not cause irregular periods and most women exercisers who have irregular periods had the problem long before they began to exercise.
Women are supposed to menstruate every 25 to 28 days and have two hormones, estrogen and progesterone. When the interval between periods is more than 35 days or fewer than 25, a woman is usually deficient in one or both of those hormones.
"Exercise-associated" irregular periods are real, but are not caused by the exercise itself nor by a lack of body fat. While thinness is associated with irregular periods, it is not the cause. The leading theory is athletes with irregular periods simply don't eat enough. Gymnasts, distance runners and ballerinas are most likely to develop irregular periods because they are often obsessed with thinness and food restrictions.
Be sure your daughter complements her jogging by eating sensibly.
Most women who have irregular periods do not have a serious problem and just need to eat more. If that doesn't restore their periods to normal, they should be evaluated by a physician. They may need to take replacement hormones.
Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.
United Feature Syndicate