Understanding and Managing Hamstring Tears: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Understanding and Managing Hamstring Tears: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

A torn muscle fibre is – similar to a torn ligament or a strain – a typical sports injury. During a high load, it is not just a single muscle fibre that tears, as the name muscle fibre tear suggests, but usually a whole muscle fibre bundle. Muscle fibre tears in the thigh and calf are prevalent. Find out more about the causes, typical symptoms and treatment options for a torn muscle fibre here.

Causes of a muscle fibre tear

Muscle fibre tears and their precursor muscle strains often occur in sports such as football, handball, tennis, squash, and short-distance sprints. These sports are characterized either by sudden maximum loads on the muscles (sprints) or a rapid alternation of braking and acceleration.

As a result of such extreme stress, a muscle strain or a muscle fibre tear can occur. A muscle fibre tear occurs when the mechanical tensile forces acting in the muscles can no longer be absorbed. This is usually the case after intense exertion that has led to exhaustion of the muscles. Due to the heavy strain, the muscle metabolism can become unbalanced, and the communication between nerves and muscles can be negatively influenced.

The cause of a muscle fibre tear is usually an overload of the muscles. In addition, the risk of a muscle fibre tear also increases significantly if the warm-up phase before training is too short and if the weather is cold.


Muscle fibre tear or muscle strain?

The muscle fibres are overstretched if the forces acting in the muscles can no longer be absorbed. The first consequence of such a stretch is a muscle strain: The anatomical structure of the muscle remains unharmed, so there is no destruction of muscle cells.

Strains are usually noticeable by a slight or somewhat stronger pull in the affected muscle. If you have a strain, you should stop the movement immediately and rest the muscle. It is also advisable to cool the affected area.

If the muscle is subjected to even greater stress, it can lead to a muscle fibre rupture. A whole bundle of muscle fibres usually tears, and we feel a stabbing pain in the muscles. In contrast to a strain, a muscle fibre rupture is always associated with a structural change in the muscles: muscle cells are destroyed, and the tissue bleeds.

When the muscle is subjected to maximum stress, it can also cause individual muscle fibres and the entire muscle to tear. In such a case, one speaks of a muscle tear. This leads to severe bleeding into the tissue and a possible total failure of muscle contraction. Each of the two muscle parts pulls back toward their insertion tendon.

Muscle strain, muscle fibre rupture and muscle tear only differ in the damage caused to the musculature.

Typical symptoms of a muscle fibre tear

Muscle fibre tears are prevalent in the calf and thigh. This is because the stress in many sports areas is exceptionally high. A typical symptom of a muscle fibre rupture is a sudden onset of pain that initially does not subside even when resting.

In addition, the functional activity of the affected muscle is restricted: the muscle loses strength, and movements are painful. Tensioning the muscles alone often leads to symptoms without a change in length. To avoid pain, those affected adopt a relieving posture in which the affected muscles are relieved.

In some cases, a dent in the musculature can be felt in the affected area of ​​a muscle fibre tear – in some cases, this dent is even visible. However, these symptoms can also indicate a muscle tear.

A muscle fibre tear also causes bleeding into the tissue, resulting in a bruise on the injured area. Depending on how deep the wounded tissue layer is, this can only be seen later or not at all. Only in the case of more significant injuries, such as a muscle tear with more bleeding, does the bruise become visible more quickly.

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