Muscle Strains – Patient's Guide to Muscle Strains

A muscle strain occurs when any of your muscles or tendons is overstretched or pulled. In some cases, the muscle may tear, either partial or completely torn. Most muscle strains can be effectively treated with simple home treatments, such as rest, ice and taking pain medication. More severe muscle strains may be needed to be repaired surgically.

Muscle Strain Causes

Muscle strains can be caused by twisting or pulling of a muscle or tendon. It can result from improperly lifting heavy objects, putting too much stress on the muscle, or a direct blow to the muscle. In some cases, muscle strain may be caused by overuse or repetitive movements.

Muscle Strain Symptoms

Symptoms of muscle strain depend on the severity of the injury. The most common symptom of a muscle strain is pain at the site of injury. You may also experience:
  • A "popping" or "snapping" sensation at the time of your injury
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising if small blood vessels are damaged at the site of injury
  • Muscle spasm
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty moving your injured limb

The symptoms that you may experience depend on the severity of your injury. Learn more about Severity of Muscle Strains - Muscle Strain Grading.

Where Do Muscle Strains Commonly Occur?

Muscle strains can occur in any of your muscles or tendons. However, two of the most common muscle strains are pulled hamstring or hamstring strain at the back of the thigh and back strain, particularly the lower back. An inflamed tendon is specifically known as tendonitis.

The specific name of muscle strain depends on the muscle affected. Some of these are enumerated below:

What You Can Do

If you have mild strain, applying the RICE principle of treating minor injuries may be just enough to manage your symptoms. RICE is an acronym for rest, ice application, compression, and elevation.
  • Stop your activity that led to your injury and rest.
  • Put ice pack (wrapped with towel) to help relieve your pain and swelling.
  • Apply compression bandage to help minimize or prevent swelling.
  • Elevate your injured limb above the level of your heart if possible to help minimize swelling.

Taking pain medication may also help with your pain and swelling.

Treatments for Muscle Strains

There are several treatment options for muscle strains. Initially, RICE therapy may be given to help manage your symptoms. Other treatment options may include pain medications, ultrasound therapy, exercise, and physiotherapy. Severe cases where muscle tearing occurs may need to be surgically repaired.

Physiotherapy for Muscle Strains

Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment for many types of musculoskeletal conditions including muscle strains. Most often, your physiotherapy rehabilitation program involves exercises and other modalities, such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and ultrasound. Your physiotherapist may also recommend bracing or use of a walking aid.

Your therapist will also be educating you about the specific type of muscle strain that you have, including precautions that you should observe, self-care of your symptoms, and injury prevention.

See Also


Conditions and Injuries l All About Physiotherapy

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