How long a muscle strain lasts depends on a number of factors. The muscle healing process has four main stages.
Asking how long does a muscle strain last is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string. It all depends on which muscle, how badly it is torn and how well you look after your injury. Here we explain the muscle tissue healing process which should give you an idea of what happens if you tear a muscle.
Muscle tissue healing
Our understanding of tissue repair and healing has greatly changed over the last few years. Knowledge of the healing and repair process is continuously advancing and changing. Tissue healing and repair refers to how the body replaces destroyed, damaged, or injured muscle tissue.
There are four main stages of healing and repair into four phases. It is important to understand that these phases are not independent of each other. Instead, they work together to simultaneously produce a favourable end result. The four phases of healing and repair are Bleeding, Inflammation, Proliferation, and Remodelling.
Following a muscle injury, there is likely to be a degree of bleeding. The bleeding phase occurs immediately after injury. How long does the bleeding phase of a muscle strain last? Research suggests that from point of injury to the end of bleeding is between four to six hours. However, this is an average and bleeding can be significantly longer.
The inflammatory phase occurs within a few hours. The inflammatory phase peaks at approximately one to three days post-injury. Then it gradually eases and resolves over the next few weeks.
This inflammatory phase is normal and is essential for overall recovery. Muscle being a relatively vascular tissue moves through the inflammatory phase faster than other tissues which have a poor blood supply.
The proliferation phase occurs much earlier than previously thought. This phase occurs within the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours of injury.
However, it does take considerably longer to reach its maximum activity, usually between two to three weeks post-injury. The purpose of the proliferation phase is to generate repair material (scar tissue).
The majority of the scar tissue forms at two to three weeks. Muscle does not achieve the final, higher quality, more functional end product until much later. The proliferation phase continues for several months. It may last up to four to six months post-injury.
How long does the remodelling phase of a muscle strain last?
This is an extremely important phase of tissue repair, especially in the consideration of therapy and rehabilitation. The emphasis of the remodelling phase is to produce scar tissue. In particular scar tissue that is organised and of significant quality to be both functional and similar to the pre-injury tissue.
It was previously thought that the remodelling phase begins at approximately two to three weeks post-injury. But it is now more considered that this process begins very early post-injury and possibly within the first week.
The remodelling phase is thought to continue for months, sometimes years. The tissue healing and repair process is a complex body function that should be considered normal and essential to healing and recovery. It is possible to influence this process in a positive way to facilitate recovery back to the sport, and reduce the risk of further injury or delayed healing.