Austin Rolfing: Pulled Muscles

A pulled muscle is when you over-stretch muscle fibers past their normal working length.  Sometimes, if the muscle fibers are stretched too far, there can be tearing of the muscle fibers.  Often the pulled muscle will keep you out of your sport from anywhere between 2 – 6 weeks pending on the severity of the pull and the quality of your recovery program.

Ok, so how can Rolfing help with pulled muscles? Often, the tendency is to think that the reason the muscle was pulled in the first place was because it was too short.  So, stretching it should lengthen it and problem goes away right?  Well, not so much.  Let’s assume for a moment that the pulled muscle is your hamstring.  What if the opposing muscle (ie your quadriceps) is too short, which pulls your pelvis in to an anterior tilt.  Your hamstrings are attached to the back of your pelvis; so, if your pelvis is being pulled into an anterior tilt, then the hamstring is being pulled too long.  In this scenario, if you try to lengthen the hamstring, you are only exacerbating the issue.   In fact, you would want to lengthen the quads which allows your pelvis to sit in a more neutral position and takes the excess strain off of the hamstring.  You would then want to strengthen the hamstring to bring tensional balance back to the system.

Why were your quads too short in the first place?  This is something we would discuss in your Rolfing sessions to get an idea of how you are using your body, as your body is only responding to how you are using it.  We would take a look at how you sit throughout the day and your workout regimen to see if your muscle groups are getting balanced workloads.  If there is an imbalance in your system, it’s important to do an evaluation to see how you are contributing to it with how you are living your life.

Another reason you can get a pulled muscle is if your “wiring” is off.  When we are toddlers, crawling around the house we establish our “wiring” by moving opposite arm and leg to propel yourself forward.  Occasionally, we can have an injury or a poor habit that will disturb the sequence of when muscles are supposed to fire or relax (ie. our wiring).  You’ll then have muscles that are not firing when they are supposed to and they don’t have the capacity to contract to keep them from overstretching and you get a muscle pull.

Hydration can also be a key factor.  Without proper hydration, your soft tissue won’t have the proper elasticity to lengthen as much as it is capable.  Here’s a simple test to find out if you are dehydrated: Pinch the skin directly behind any knuckle on your hand. The skin should flatten out right away when you release it. If the skin you pinched stays pinched for more than a second, you are dehydrated.

  • 6 Signs of temporary dehydration: It only takes 2% dehydration for athletic performance and mental alertness to decline. Look for these 6 symptoms:
    • Hot, red, skin with no sweat *
    • Confusion *
    • Thirst
    • Dry, chapped lips
    • Salty, white residue around lips
    • Fatigue

There are many ways you can get a muscle pull.  At my Rolfing practice in Austin, TX we’ll do a thorough examination of your body mechanics, movement patterns as well as talk about body usage to get a better idea of the true source of the issue.  We’ll then talk about and execute a treatment plan.

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