What are muscle tears?
Muscle tears are direct or indirect traumatic injuries that cause damage to the structure of the muscle tissue.
What causes muscle tears?
Muscle tears can be caused by direct or indirect injury or trauma. The most common cause is an indirect injury or strain caused by overstretching during athletic activities, such as running or jumping.
Direct causes include damage from a bone fracture or external lacerations (deep cuts). Lacerations from complications during surgery can also occur.
"The most common cause is an indirect injury or strain caused by overstretching during athletic activities, such as running or jumping."
What are the clinical signs of muscle tears?
Clinical signs of muscle tears include pain on palpation (examination by touch during a physical exam) of the injured area, lameness or limping, swelling of the muscle, and bruising. The clinical signs may be difficult to detect if the tear is mild.
How are muscle tears diagnosed?
Muscle tears are diagnosed by clinical signs and examining which muscles are involved; certain muscles are more likely to be affected by muscle tears than others, and each muscle can have slightly different clinical signs.
Blood work to measure creatine phosphokinase (CPK), a muscle enzyme released in the body, may be elevated and supports the diagnosis. Imaging such as radiographs (X-rays) and advanced imaging such as ultrasound, CT, and MRI can also assist in diagnosing and localizing the injury.
How are muscle tears treated?
Muscle tears are treated immediately with rest, cold compresses, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. Mild compression bandages can be used initially, depending on the affected muscle. Additional pain control may be required if the NSAID is not sufficient. Laser and ultrasound therapy may also be used to treat inflammation and enhance the healing process.
"Laser and ultrasound therapy may also be used to treat inflammation and enhance the healing process."
After two days, passive physical therapy can be performed to prevent complications during healing. Your veterinarian will recommend physical therapy or refer you to a rehabilitation practitioner, depending on the severity of the injury. If the injury is mild, light, controlled exercise (no running or jumping) can be reintroduced to promote healing and return to normal function.
In the most severe cases, surgery is likely required. Surgery is performed two to three days after the injury so that swelling and inflammation have time to reduce. In these cases where surgery is required, exercise should be strictly controlled for a month following surgery; a detailed plan for physical therapy during this time is essential to minimize the secondary effects of immobility. This allows for the best healing, prevents further injury, and gives your cat the opportunity for a quicker return to normal mobility.
What care will my cat require after treatment for a muscle tear?
Cats with muscle tears will likely benefit from physical therapy. Complete inactivity and immobilization of the injured muscle can lead to permanent muscle contracture (tightening), so controlled movement during healing is essential. After successful treatment of the muscle tear, no further aftercare is required.