Muscle Contusion (Corked Muscle) Treatment | Back In Motion

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What is a muscle contusion (corked muscle)?

Published: 28 October 2019 - Clinical Conditions, Injury Treatment and Prevention, Pain Management

Most of us would have heard of the term ‘corky’. But – what is a corky?

A corky is the result of a blunt trauma to the muscle that causes bleeding deep within the muscle. The medical term for this is a contusion. It is usually the result of a direct impact to the muscle from an object, or by contact with a person.

A corky can occur in any area, but it is most common for a contusion to be in the thigh region. This is due to the collisions that occur in sport between the muscle and ball, or muscle and another player. The blow to the muscle causes local muscle damage with associated bleeding.

Contusions can range from minor blows, resulting in minimal pain and no loss of activity, to severe contusions resulting in ‑ significant pain and loss of function. They may even lead to surgery if there is significant bleeding in the area! This happened to Jarryn Geary in the AFL for St. Kilda this year!

Signs & symptoms of a corked muscle 

The main diagnostic criteria for a muscle contusion revolve around how the injury occurred along with other signs such as local tenderness, swelling and increased pain on movement and stretch. Severe pain at the time of the injury may limit the ability to walk and continue to participate in activities, and often means the end of the game for the injured player.

The blow causes damage to local blood vessels and muscle tissue. Bruising may or may not be present depending on the depth of the contusion. A contusion without bruising can often be more painful and restrictive as the blood can get trapped within the tissue layers, so it doesn’t make it to the surface to see as a bruise. 

Sometimes with severe contusions, the swelling may track down to the knee joint or lower leg or even press on nerves in the area causing pins and needles, numbness or compartment syndrome and severe pain.

Muscle Contusion - corked muscle

Treatment & management 

Initial management of muscle contusions involves the RICE method which helps to minimise further bleeding and swelling within the contusion. 

  • Rest: immobilisation of the involved limb/area
  • Ice: use of ice packs or ice baths where available
  • Compression: use of compression bandage
  • Elevation: elevate the affected area to a position that is above the heart

Most muscle contusions are relatively minor and do not limit participation in sport, however, when there is a large amount of bleeding the injury severity will be worse.

Heat, alcohol, vigorous massage and playing on following injury must be avoided as they all increase the amount of bleeding and worsen the degree of injury. This may increase the recovery time and delay return to sport.

Physiotherapy treatment involves soft tissue therapy, controlled massage, dry needling, stretching, strengthening and education on what you should and shouldn’t be doing. This will allow the fastest and safest return to sport.

Self management strategies

  • Cold/hot pack – ice for the first 3 days then gentle heat from day 3 onwards
  • Fisiocream/Voltaren/Emugel – for pain relief and anti-in­flammatory properties
  • Tubi-grip – compression bandage, to minimise swelling
  • Taping for support
  • Home exercise program consisting of specific stretches and strengthening exercises suited to the individual

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