Muscles & Muscle Strain
Last Tuesday I had to walk down 12 flights of stairs in a high-rise office building because the Lifts suddenly went out of order. Well, I had to “pay” for that later, in terms of my leg muscles being very sore for two to three days afterward. I was not happy. I work on 2 floors having to go upstairs and downstairs (or use the Lift if it is working) many times a day and a week.
After this temporary muscle strain, whenever I went downstairs, my calf muscle in one leg or the other or the muscles in my upper legs on the front hurt. Apparently, walking down the stairs causes more strain on the calf muscles, than does walking up the stairs, because it requires more force to control the muscles in a downward movement, than going upward when the momentum of your whole body helps exert the force for your muscles to help propel your legs!
So, I got to thinking about muscles and remembered that when I was at High School, I learned that there were striated muscle and non-striated muscle. However, alas, since High School, many years ago, I had forgotten what I had learned about muscles. So I looked up what striated muscles are, and what causes muscle strain.
Human beings have three different types of muscles – smooth muscle, cardiac muscle, and skeletal muscle. Smooth muscles — sometimes also called involuntary muscles — are usually in sheets, or layers, with one layer of muscle behind the other. Your brain and body tell these muscles what to do without you even thinking about it. An example of smooth muscle is the muscle in the esophagus or food tract which squeezes food along the food tract.
The muscle that makes up the heart is called cardiac muscle, or the myocardium. This muscle contracts to pump blood around the heart and relaxes the heart to let blood into the heart chambers, and like smooth muscle, is out of your control.
Skeletal muscle is called striated muscle and is the type of muscle that we usually think of when we discuss muscle. It is the muscle type that is responsible for walking, jumping and running and other body movements. There are over 600 skeletal muscles in the body, in various shapes and sizes.
A muscle strain occurs when a muscle is overstretched in a quick, jerky fashion and causes some degree of muscle fiber tearing. These can range from mild to severe, when the muscle is actually torn completely and requires surgical repair. It is common to experience a muscle strain in the legs when participating in sports and often happens because muscles are not properly warmed up.
Well, my muscles were well and truly overstretched. After sitting down a bit, when I got up, my leg muscles were painful. Muscle strain in the legs is not a happy thing, but thank goodness, my muscles have “righted” themselves now, and happily, I am back to normal.
Now and then, when I am in bed, tossing and turning, I stretch out my legs and manage to over-stretch my calf muscles. This is rather painful so I have to grimace and be as still as I can until the pain stops, which it does. Ouch. That teaches me to be more careful when stretching my legs.
The “calf muscle” is actually made up of 2 muscles, in the back of the lower leg, the gastrocnemius, which is the larger muscle, and the soleus which underlies the gastrocnemius. Connective tissue at the bottom of the calf muscle merges with the Achilles tendon, which inserts into the heel bone (calcaneus). During walking, running, or jumping, the calf muscle pulls the heel up to allow forward movement.
The “hamstring muscles” are the 3 muscles on the back of the thigh, which act to bend the knee and to extend the hip (move the leg backwards). All three muscles are supplied by the Sciatic nerve, and sciatic pain often affects the hamstrings. Sciatic pain of the “hamstrings” usually arises from the lower back or the buttocks. The Sciatic nerve is the largest and thickest nerve in the human body. The Sciactic nerve is formed by the nerve roots coming out of the spinal cord into the lower back. It goes down through the buttock, then its branches extend down the back of the leg to the ankle and foot.
After my calf and hamstring muscles “playing up” the aches moved to the muscles at the front of my upper legs, the “quads” or Quadriceps Muscles.
The Quadriceps Muscles are a group of four muscles that sit on the front of the thigh.The basic function of the “Quads” is to straighten or extend the knee and lower leg. They comprise the Vastus Medialis, the Intermedius, the Lateralis, and the Rectus Femoris muscles. They attach to the front of the tibia and originate at the top of the femur. Click HERE to see a picture of the bones of the human body.
The R.I.C.E. procedure or treatment can be used for Quad strain, i.e. rest, ice compression, and elevation of the legs for the first 24 hours after the injury. This, however, was not possible for me, seeing as I had to go back to work the next day after the strain was caused.
Cold therapy can be applied as soon as possible to a moderately painful leg muscle strain, initially every hour for 10 to 15 minutes. After a day or two, this can be extended to every 2 to 3 hours. Compression means to place pressure upon the affected area to promote internal movement of fluid.
Cold compression therapy constricts the blood vessels and slows down the metabolism of the cells, which helps to control swelling and inflammation. Cold compression therapy has a numbing effect on the nerve endings decreasing the impulses to the brain perceived as pain.
The “Glutes” are also called “the Gluteals” or the “buttock muscles”. The Biceps Femoris flexes the knee, the Gluteus Maximus (the largest muscle in the body) extends the thigh at the hip and assists in laterally rotating the hip. The Gluteus Medius moves the leg out to the side and the Gluteus Minimus twists the thigh inward. The “Glutes” are generally considered to be the most powerful and largest muscles in the human body. Luckily for me, I had no trouble with my “Glutes” after my Tuesday work woes.
Now, you know something about the leg muscles of the human body. You may also have learned not to walk down 12 flights of stairs unless you have got strong leg muscles. Perhaps it is time for me to go to the Gym!