If you are a regular gym goer, picking up heavy things and putting them back down is a fairly routine occurrence. That being said, there may be moments where things do not go according to plan…
All of a sudden you feel a tweak, pull, snap or something else unusual followed by sharp or dull pain while weightlifting. Within as little as 8 hours, the pain is noticeably worse with certain movements much more difficult to execute. Days continue to pass and there is no significant improvement.
Now you’re probably getting a little worried. Is there something seriously wrong? Do I need to see a Doctor for my injury?
I am going to answer both of these questions from a scientific perspective.
Is There Something Seriously Wrong?
If it has been several days since the incident and you can still move, breathe, eat, sleep and function to some extent, then it is likely you did not cause any serious harm to your musculoskeletal system. No need to hit the panic button yet.
It is much more likely you suffered a muscle strain (or pulled muscle), tendon sprain, ligament tear or some other form of soft tissue damage. It all depends on what exercise you were doing, and the symptoms you are experiencing.
As you can probably imagine there are countless potential diagnoses, and it would take me literally forever to go through them all!
That being said, it is still pretty unlikely something is seriously wrong.
Should I See A Doctor?
Contrary to popular belief, most medical Doctors won’t be able to identify the precise problem based on an initial appointment alone. Their main job is to rule out any big bad scary stuff that you might be dealing with.
Once big bad scary stuff is ruled out, chances are they then refer you for an X-ray and Ultrasound in an attempt to rule out fractures and determine precisely which muscles and other tissues are damaged.
Only once they have the results from the X-ray and Ultrasound, the Doctor can tell you exactly what you’re dealing with. But they won’t be the one best able to assist you…
It is far more likely to refer you to Physical Therapy. Physiotherapists have significantly more training and expertise with musculoskeletal injuries and disorders than your GP.
Depending on where you live, this may take quite some time before all these appointments can be completed, and if you aren’t insured, a hefty bill might be waiting for you when all is said and done. This may cause you even more pain that your initial injury.
Assuming that you aren’t in extreme agony and are under the age of 45, there’s a pretty good chance that your injury will heal on its own without any significant intervention. But it may take some time; anywhere from several days to several months depending on which tissue has been damaged and how severe it is.
A minor hamstring tear might take just a handful of days to return to normal function whereas a major rotator cuff tear can take up to a year to fully heal!
To Sum Things Up:
If you are experiencing severe pain and are unable to perform everyday tasks due to your injury, see a doctor immediately.
If you are still able to perform most tasks and it has only been a handful of days, I suggest holding off on the doctor visit for now. Give your body a little more time to heal on its own and rest as needed.
If you want answers now, I recommend going directly to your Physical Therapist. They will likely suggest some exercises, stretches and other therapeutic techniques to help speed up the healing process.