Pulled muscles are a common aggravation for anyone enjoying exercise or athletics, and often take great care and patience to heal, preventing us from participating the activities we love. In this blog article we explore how red light therapy can help recovery and speed healing when treating a pulled muscle.
Pulling a muscle is something we all eventually experience, and if you are like most people, chances are you have been inconvenienced by this common injury. It can be quite aggravating; the sudden pain, the disappointment and realization that you must stop whatever you are doing right away and patiently wait for it to heal. Luckily there are ways to help a pulled muscle heal a little faster, with the help of rest, ice, heat, elevation, and also red light therapy.
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What exactly is a pulled muscle?
A pulled muscle is an injury that occurs when the muscle is stretched beyond its capacity. The most common cause of a pulled muscle is overuse, such as during physical activity or repetitive motion. Other causes include direct trauma to the muscle, sudden changes in direction, and excessive force. Pulled muscles can occur in any part of the body, but are most common in the back, legs, and arms. Symptoms of a pulled muscle include soreness at rest and/or when engaging it, swelling, bruising, and weakness in the affected area. Severe injuries may require physical therapy or surgery.
A pulled muscle can range from mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful and can make it difficult to move the affected area. In cases where there is a more severe injury, it is best to seek immediate medical help, as muscle tears may need medical intervention to heal properly whereas a simple pull can usually heal on its own
Some traditional treatments for pulled muscles include:
Rest: The first step in treating a pulled muscle is to rest the affected area. Avoiding activity will help to reduce inflammation and pain.
Ice: Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and pain. It's important to wrap the ice in a towel or cloth so that it doesn't come into direct contact with your skin. Apply the ice for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
Heat: Applying heat to the affected area can also help reduce pain and inflammation. Use a heating pad set on low or warm, or take a warm bath or shower. Apply heat for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
Compression: Wrapping the affected area with an elastic bandage can help compress the muscle and provide support. Be sure not to wrap too tightly, as this could cause additional pain or discomfort.
Elevation: Elevating the affected limb can also help reduce pain and swelling. Try to keep the limb elevated above heart level when possible.
How can red light therapy help pulled muscles recover faster?
There are several newer treatments available for pulled muscles and red light therapy being one of them, as studies have shown that it can help stimulate tissue repair and promote healing. Red light therapy is a non-invasive, safe treatment that has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of conditions.
Red light therapy can help to improve range of motion and increase blood flow to the muscles. A single session of red-light therapy can provide relief from symptoms, but for best results, consistent use and a targeted treatment plan are recommended.
How does red light therapy work for pulled muscles
Red light therapy can be an effective treatment for pulled muscles because it can help to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation. When blood flow is increased, the muscles get more oxygen and nutrients, which can help to speed up the healing process. Red light therapy can also help to reduce swelling by decreasing the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body.
Red light therapy has been theorized to help the mitochondria through endogenous photo receptors in those cells identified primarily as cytochrome C oxidase (CCO) as one of the key integral member proteins that are involved in this process. When red light is introduced, the chain reaction triggered by the decoupling of the bond between CCO and nitric oxide (NO). Nitric Oxide in this context competes with oxygen, and by this mechanism is released, allowing the mitochondria to again take up the oxygen molecules that were originally displaced by the NO. This allows the cell to respirate more efficiently, optimizing all the processes of that cell. The subsequent surge of NO into the bloodstream is also beneficial as NO acts as a vasodilator and helps increase blood flow Nitric Oxide Series, Part Four: How Nitric Oxide (NO) Causes Vasodilation. With the concurrence of increased blood flow and increased oxygenation, leading to optimal production of ATP by the mitochondria, a cascade of other secondary benefits occur. The speeding up of healing tissue, the reduction of inflammation as well as many other positive changes from this initial reaction have been observed by numerous studies involving red light.
In a study conducted with 65 university athletes, there was a significant reduction of recovery time using NIR light found that “The average LED-mediated RTP (Return To Play) in the 65 subjects was significantly shorter at 9.6 days, compared with the mean anticipated RTP of 19.23 days” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27141153/
Although it can be a little tricky to have controlled studies done on a specific injury at a given time, there are plenty of studies conducted on red light and muscle recovery and growth. This would lend itself to be in keeping with the idea that red light can help with healing pulled muscles as many of the mechanisms that can help muscles recover faster after a workout would be the same as healing a pulled muscle.
In one study scientists found that red light significantly decreased pain and prevented delayed onset muscle soreness in subjects trying a new type of exercise Effect of phototherapy on delayed onset muscle soreness - PubMed (nih.gov)
In another small but fascinating study using NIR with the subjects being a pair identical twin athletes; researchers concluded that “Light-emitting diode therapy can be useful to reduce muscle damage, pain, and atrophy, as well as to increase muscle mass, recovery, and athletic performance in rehabilitation programs and sports medicine.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5026559/
As pulled muscles can range from a mild nuisance to a serious injury, red light therapy can certainly become a staple treatment in the toolbelt of anyone wishing to help prevent, heal and recover from this very common ailment.
For anyone wishing to explore the benefits of our red light therapy panels, offering targeted treatment for smaller areas or larger panels for larger muscle groups to whole body coverage; we invite you to check out the family of Rouge panels to find your perfect fit.