Recovering from muscle injury
June 4, 2013 3:03 PM   Subscribe

About a week ago I apparently suffered some type of injury to the front of my thigh muscle. This has caused excruciating pain when I try to sit up, stand up or sit down, pain worse than when i broke my ankle and pain worse than childbirth. The only position that is at all bearable is lying on my side with the injured leg on top. I've been to the ER twice now with x-rays, lab work and ultrasounds ruling out fracture, blood clot, etc and the only positive finding being soft tissue swelling. The only diagnosis I have been given is muscle tear. Has anyone ever suffered an injury such as this? How long a recovery period can I expect? I haven't showered or really been out of bed in a week except to visit the toilet (which is excruciatingly painful in itself). I'm the least sporty person I know, so I'm hoping some MeFi athletes might have experience with muscle tears and can give an idea of what to expect.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
I've had various soft tissue injuries over the years but never quite as bad as what you're experiencing. For muscle strains and partial tears, the standard advice is rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The healing process can take weeks, or months even, but it should slowly get better over time so you at least know that it's healing. But with the pain you're describing, you need to be sure you don't have a full tear as that might not heal without medical intervention. I would suggest you find a sports doctor for a second opinion and/or ask if an MRI would be useful for a better diagnosis.
posted by Durin's Bane at 3:27 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

The pain levels you're experiencing sound outside of minor/moderate tear territory. Please see a sports medicine specialist and get better imaging (MRI) of the leg. If you have a severe tear or rupture, you may need more treatment instead of just RICE (rest-ice-compression-elevation).
posted by quince at 3:38 PM on June 4, 2013

I have a friend who tore his quadriceps completely and that required surgery but was also super obvious to diagnose given inability to stand, contracted muscle and agonizing pain. You might have a partial tear - I agree with the posters above. Are you icing and taking pain meds?

When I tore a muscle in my back last summer it was extremely painful for less than a week - with lots of ice, muscle relaxants and the occasional narcotic. I don't know that it's a useful comparison though - paging Treehorn+Bunny!
posted by leslies at 3:54 PM on June 4, 2013

IANAD, but agree with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation).

I wonder if a small amount of very easy passive motion (slow spinning on an exercise bicycle with no resistance) might also help get blood flowing without damaging it further.
posted by sarah_pdx at 4:30 PM on June 4, 2013

I can't imagine why they didn't give you an MRI on the second visit. I concur that you need a sports doctor, who will almost certainly order one for you.
posted by HotToddy at 4:42 PM on June 4, 2013

I've pulled plenty of mucles. I've torn knee ligaments. At no time would I describe any of that pain as "worse than childbirth". You really gotta get yourself back to a doctor.
posted by zug at 6:05 PM on June 4, 2013

Sports medicine docs are typically highly specialized surgeons and the best ones may find things on MRI that wouldn't stand out otherwise based on their experience and they typically would go for an MRI especially if you experience that level of pain with oxycodone on board. I've had knee pain that hit 10/10 but on Percocet I did my PT and am good to go. My ankle OTOH...
posted by lordaych at 6:17 PM on June 4, 2013

If your ER docs didn't offer a narcotic, have them flogged BTW. Qty 20 at least to get you covered for a specialist follow up especially after trip 2.
posted by lordaych at 6:21 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

For relatively minor tears and strains, you want to do RICE and anti-inflammatories in the immediate period after the injury, but as soon as you're able start slowly incorporating the injured part back into activity in order to facilitate blood flow and healing through the area. That might mean starting with isometric flexing followed by unweighted leg extensions, slowly working up to air squats and the like.

However, that's for minor injuries, not ones that are worse than childbirth. A tear causing that amount of pain is one that needs surgery, and that is accompanied by a lot of swelling and bruising in the injured area. It doesn't sound like that's the case for you though, which means something weird is going on and you need to see another doctor.
posted by schroedinger at 9:03 PM on June 4, 2013

After 2 more trips to the ER (one of those lying on the floor of my SUV), I had a CT scan of the lumbar spine, which showed a herniated disc pressing on a nerve. Oddly enough I have never had any back pain. I'm typing this from my hospital bed in Observation, awaiting transfer to a skilled nursing facility. My rural community doesn't have any spine docs, so arrangements are being made for me to see one in the next city soonly. It's just a relief to know what it is and to have my pain under control, although I am still bedridden, hopefully the steroids I am on will calm things down enough that I can actually sit up soon.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 1:38 PM on June 12, 2013

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