What is a Strained Muscle?

FROGS Physical Therapy

A strained muscle, or what is commonly called a pulled muscle, is an injury that can occur when the muscle is stretched beyond its capacity, resulting in the tearing of muscle fibers. This kind of injury can occur during sports or fitness activity, on the job, or simply while going about day to day life. A muscle strain can range from a minor discomfort to a severely painful injury depending on the level of the strain and which muscle is affected. The recovery time for a strained muscle also varies greatly depending on the patient and the degree of the injury.


Strained Muscle Symptoms

There are a few symptoms commonly associated with a strained muscle that you may notice quickly after the injury occurs. Pain and stiffness in the muscle are typically the first signs that something has occurred within the muscle fibers. If the sprain is suffered while playing a sport, the pain may be quite intense. For instance, a strained hamstring while running is a painful injury that will cause most individuals to fall to the ground. For a severe hamstring strain, it may not be possible to walk for a period of time following the injury.

Other symptoms to look out for include bruising in the area of the muscle tear and sensitivity to touch where the muscle has been damaged. To treat a strained muscle, the RICE method is commonly used to start the process of reducing swelling and limiting pain. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Those four points will all serve to fight off swelling and help the muscle being the road to recovery.

Much like sprains, muscle strains are classified in three different degrees. A first degree strain is the most minor, in which only a few of the muscle fibers have been torn and the injury can often be recovered from quickly using the RICE method. A second degree strain includes a significant tear in the muscle and noticeable soreness and pain. These injuries take longer to recover from and may require some rehabilitation in addition to the basic treatments. If a third degree muscle strain is suffered, surgical intervention is likely to be needed. Pain during a third degree strain can be intense, and a long road of rehabilitation with the help of a physical therapist will likely be required in order to regain normal muscle function.

You don’t have to be an athlete or even being participating in a rigorous activity to suffer a strained muscle. In fact, just about any motion can result in a strain if the muscle is overstretched to the point of tearing. In order to have the injury resolved as quickly as possible, proper treatment must be adhered to and any assigned exercise from a physical therapist must be completed. A damaged muscle, even after it is no longer painful, can affect the way the rest of your body functions if it is not doing its job properly. Complete rehabilitation is your best bet to return to your full level of physical function and suffer no long term side effects from the strained muscle.