All You Need to Know About Muscle Strain – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

All You Need to Know About Muscle Strain – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Muscle strain, muscle tear, or muscle pull refers to any damage to a muscle. It occurs when any muscle in our body works too hard or becomes stretched. You can treat muscle strain at home and can boost recovery using specific exercises. Here is an article with all you need to know about muscle strain.

Strains can occur in any muscle; however, it is common in the lower back, hamstring, shoulder, and neck. 

In many cases, proper exercises and home care can help in healing the muscle strain; however, in the severe strain, you need medical treatment. 

What is Muscle Strain?

A muscle strain occurs when a muscle is torn or overstretched. It mainly occurs as a result of overuse, fatigue, or inappropriate use of a muscle.

When we put undue pressure on our muscles during normal everyday activities, during sports, or sudden heavy lifting, or while performing some work, it can lead to muscle strain. 

The severity of the strain can vary from mild to complete or partial tear of the muscle, depending upon the muscle fibers’ damage. You can treat moderate strains at home with heat, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications.

Muscle Strain Symptoms

How long does a muscle strain last, and what are the symptoms? Depending on the severity of the strain, the signs and symptoms can vary. Below mentioned are some common symptoms of muscle strain (Source). 

  • Soreness
  • Sudden onset of pain
  • Limited motion
  • Swelling
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Discoloration or bruising
  • Pain or tenderness

In mild strain, a torn muscle feels stiff; however, it is flexible enough to use. In case of severe muscle strain, the muscle is severely torn, which leads to pain or limited motion. 

The symptoms caused by mild to moderate muscle strain heal within a few weeks; however, the severe strain might take months to heal.

Muscle Strain Causes

An acute muscle strain is caused by the unexpected and sudden tear of muscles. An excess stretch can cause it in the muscle or overuse of muscles or an accident like a fall. 

People with inflexible muscles also face the issue of muscle strain. Here are some common causes of muscle strain. 

  • Poor flexibility
  • Fatigue and overexertion
  • Poor conditioning
  • Not warming up adequately before a workout or physical activity

We think that only high-intensity workout or rigorous exercise can cause muscle strain. However, that’s not true. Muscle strain can even happen from walking. Below mentioned are some causes of acute muscle strain.

  • Run
  • Jump
  • Lose your footing or slip
  • Lift heavyweight
  • Throw something
  • Lifting something in an awkward position

Acute muscle strain happens more commonly in cold weather. It is due to the reason that muscles are stiff during this time at a lower temperature. It is better to take more time to warm up in order to prevent muscle strain.

A strain when intercostal muscle stretches cause intercostal muscle strain. Below mentioned are the causes of intercostal muscle strain.

  • Reaching, like when painting the ceiling
  • Falling
  • Lifting while twisting
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Participation in sports such as tennis, baseball, or golf
  • Chopping wood
  • Being hit in the rib cage 

Chronic muscle strains are mainly caused due to repetitive movement. Below mentioned are some common causes.

  • Poor posture
  • Sports such as golf, baseball, or rowing
  • Holding neck or back in an awkward position for a long period of time

How to Treat Muscle Strain?

Below mentioned are some popular ways to treat muscle strain. 

Home Remedies for Muscle Strain

In most cases, muscle strain can be treated at home. You can treat minor muscle strain using the RICE technique. 


After muscle strain, do not use your muscle for some days, especially if movement leads to increased pain. However, too much rest can also result in weak muscle and can prolong the process of healing. After two-three days, slowly start using the affected muscles. Keep in mind not to overuse it. 


After muscle injury, always remember to use the ice immediately. It will help in minimizing the swelling. Avoid putting the ice directly on your skin. You can keep the ice in a towel or use an ice pack. Keep the ice on the affected muscle for around 15-20 minutes. Repeat this process every hour on the first day of injury. For the next few days, use some ice every four hours. 


In order to reduce the swelling caused by muscle strain, wrap the affected muscle using an elastic bandage until the swelling reduces. Do not wrap it too tightly as it can reduce the blood circulation. 


Muscle strain in the arm or leg can be really discomforting. Elevation of the injured leg or arm can help in reducing the swelling. It allows the fluid to flow back properly towards the heart. 

Use OTC Anti-Inflammatory Medication

You can use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen. It will help in reducing the pain and swelling. Moreover, you can also use acetaminophen to relieve pain. However, it does not contain anti-inflammatory medicines. It would be better to consult a doctor before taking the medication. 

Medical Treatments

We understand that the muscle strain in the neck or back can be really painful. If OTC medication does not help in relieving pain, ask your doctor to prescribe stronger anti-inflammatory medication or pain-relieving medication. 

In addition to this, you can also opt for massage therapy to relax the injured muscles. It will also help in enhancing the person’s range of motion. 

Other Self-Care Methods

Apply Heat

After three days of the injury, apply heat to the affected muscle two to three times a day. It will help in managing the blood circulation to the affected area, which in turn would help in healing. 

Do Not Rest the Muscle for a Long Time

Resting the muscle for a long time can cause weakness and stiffness. You can begin with lightly stretching the muscles as soon as possible. Increase the level of activity slowly. 


When you return to normal activity, keep in mind to always warm-up or stretch before exercising. It will help in increasing the blood flow and decreasing the risk of injury. 

Try to Stay in Shape

If you are in shape, you are less likely to get a strain. It will make you strong and healthy.

When to See a Doctor

You can treat mild to moderate strain using home treatment. However, it would be better to consult a doctor if any of the below mentioned happens.

  • You are unable to walk
  • You are unable to move our legs or arms
  • The injured area or muscle is numb
  • The pain in the affected area does not subside even after a week
  • Bleeding from your injury

How to Prevent Muscle Strain

Now that you know how to heal muscle strain, here are some tips to prevent muscle strain. 

Avoid Sitting in One Position for a Long Time

Sitting in the same position for a long time can cause muscle strain. Try to change your position and take frequent breaks. Use the right chair that renders proper support, or you can also use a pillow for proper support. Always try to keep your knees level with hips.

Maintain the Right Posture When Sitting or Standing

If you often spend a long time in one position, it can cause muscle strain. Always try to change the foot position as it can help in reducing the chances of stress in back muscles. It can help in avoiding muscle strain in the back. 

Lift Objects Carefully

Lifting the objects carefully can help you in avoiding the muscle strain in the neck or other parts of the body. Keep your back strain and bend at the knees while lifting an object. Moreover, always keep the weight closer to your body. Do not twist and lift at the same time. 

Prevent Falls

Take proper precautions to avoid falls. Like hold the handrails wales on the stairways, be careful at the slippery surfaces, and always keep the floors uncluttered. 

Lose Weight

If you are overweight, focus on losing some weight. It will help you in avoiding falls and injuries that can lead to muscle strain. 

Wear the Right Shoes

Always wear shoes that provide you with stability. It will help in avoiding muscle strain. 

How Long Does a Muscle Strain Last?

The recovery time of a muscle strain depends on the severity of the injury. The average healing time for different sports injuries like muscle strain can vary, In case of a mild strain, you might get back to normal within three to six weeks with proper home care. For severe strains, the recovery time might be several months. Moreover, in the case of more severe strain, physical therapy or surgical repair might be necessary.

Final Words

Muscle strain can happen normally and can range from mild to severe. It is better to take proper rest and rehabilitate the strained muscle to recover and retire to the normal physical activity level.

Taking proper care at home and performing simple exercising can prove beneficial.

It would be better to consult a doctor in case of severe muscle strain. If you find the above-mentioned information helpful, drop a comment. 


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