what happens when you strain or pull a muscle and why does heat (e.g. using a heating pad) help reduce the pain?

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what happens when you strain or pull a muscle and why does heat (e.g. using a heating pad) help reduce the pain?

In: Biology

Muscle strains usually occur when they are stretched beyond certain point which causes minor-to-moderate tissue damage. Tensed up/ tightened/ fatigued muscles are more susceptible to strains, which is why it is always recommended to limber up before performing physically taxing activities/ take a break in between activities, which helps loosen up the muscles. Fatigue and dehydration can lead to lactic acid accumulating in the muscles, which can cause them to ‘lock up’ (cramps) and cause strains as well.
Hot compresses help dilate blood vessels and relaxes the muscles, which gets rid of the lactic acid built up in the area. Cold compresses reduce blood flow to the area which slows down tissue inflammation, and also acts as a local anesthetic by numbing the pain. It’s actually better to alternate hot and cold compresses for muscle strains/ joint injuries (unless you have cramps, in which case cold would make it worse).