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Author of muscle strain book strains muscle

 •  • by Paul Ingraham

Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.


It’s time for another delightful episode of Relating to My Readers: I strained a calf, playing ultimate, just my fourth game since returning to the sport after a sad sixteen-month pandemic gap.

I was super excited to play again! I am super disappointed to be sidelined almost immediately upon returning! Ugh.

And there was no glory either. No dive, no catch, no sprint even — the muscle just tore while running. Good grief. Stupid age.

So, for context, you should know (or be reminded) I wrote a whole book about muscle strains (tears). So this experience will trickle down into that book and make it better… as many of my athletics injuries have in the past.

Big free intro, $20 paywall. Buy a book, learn stuff.

So this felt just like an exertional cramp at first. Cramping weather for sure! Hot. (Cramps strongly correlates with heat.) I had a very strong craving to elongate.

Unlike a cramp, the pain just didn’t ease up: it kept right on twinging sharply with any contraction at all. When it howled just as loud even after twenty minutes of chilling on the sideline, I thought “NOT GOOD.”

You can definitely get a strain from a cramp. The cramp feeling didn’t feel extreme enough for that in this case, however. Perhaps the muscle just tore… and my brain interpreted the sudden pain as crampy? I do not know. Funny how murky these things are, eh?

But it’s 90% likely a grade 1 strain. Not painful or debilitating enough for grade 2. Some recovery overnight also suggests it’s not all that bad.

A good samaritan on the sidelines tried really hard to prescribe me a remedy. It was a white bottle with all Chinese characters, except for the word “antiphlogistine” — so a “rubefacient” then, a spicy A535-ish muscle-rub thing.

I’d barely limped off the field & he was all “you have to try this, it’ll fix anything!” Just gimme a second here, friend…

His enthusiastic desire to help was adorable, but it was fascinating to see how hard he pushed, and exclusively using anecdote and hyperbole to “sell” it to me. A little microcosm of sports medicine, which isn’t much better even at the highest levels.

I did not indulge in the mystery medicine. I will try damn near anything … at a time and place of my choosing. Not so much when wounded on the sidelines and I still have to drive home.

Plus I knew it was probably just a spicy rub and … yeah, so what? That wasn’t going to make any important difference to anything.

Next day report, when I’m posting this: same but duller. Still twinging vigorously with contraction! Just less like a steak knife and more like a spudger.

Notably and oddly, I cannot find a sensitive spot when I poke around in my calf where it hurts. And that doesn’t fit the working theory of “strain” well. Torn tissue is pretty sensitive to poking!

So I have an eyebrow raised about that.

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