A muscle strain, also referred to as a pulled muscle or muscle tear, refers to damage to a muscle or its attached tendons.
- Sudden heavy lifting
- Prior injury in the same area
- Muscle tightness
- Failure to warm-up properly before exercising
- Doing too much too quickly during exercise or sports
Muscle strain symptoms
- Pain and tenderness in the injured area
- Increased pain when using the muscles
- Muscle weakness
- Limited range of motion
- Bruising or redness
Typically, you do not need to see a physician for a muscle strain unless:
- Home remedies have not brought relief
- You heard a popping sound with the injury
- You cannot walk
- You cannot raise your arm
- You have a fever
- You have open cuts
- Pain is unbearable
To determine whether you have a muscle strain, your physician will ask you for a complete medical history, ask questions about your pain and how long you have been experiencing your symptoms, and conduct a physical examination. An X-ray or MRI may be necessary to rule out other injuries.
Typically treatment for a muscle strain is non-surgical and includes:
- Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE)
- Activity modification: Such as avoiding activities that worsen symptoms
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
- Home exercises to strengthen muscles that support the involved joint
- Physical therapy to increase strength and flexibility
- Assistive devices such as crutches or a cane when symptoms worsen.
In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary but is very rare. If a tendon is completely torn, surgery may be necessary to return to normal movement. However, even in severe muscle strains, non-surgical methods have proven successful in returning a patient to their normal lifestyle.
- Avoid the activity that caused your injury for up to two weeks
- Condition muscles with exercise
- Warm up before exercise or sports activity
- Wear appropriate protective gear
- Cool down after exercise or sports activity
- If you feel pain, stop immediate and let muscles heal completely before returning to sports
Learn more about sports medicine treatment at OrthoIndy.