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Strains

A strain is when a muscle is stretched too much and tears. It is also called a pulled muscle. A strain is a painful injury. It can be caused by an accident, overusing a muscle, or using a muscle in the wrong way.

Causes

A strain may be caused by:

  • Too much physical activity or effort
  • Improperly warming up before a physical activity
  • Poor flexibility

Symptoms

Symptoms of a strain can include:

  • Pain and difficulty moving the injured muscle
  • Discolored and bruised skin
  • Swelling

First Aid

Take the following first aid steps to treat a strain:

  • Apply ice right away to reduce swelling. Wrap the ice in cloth. Do not place ice directly on the skin. Apply ice for 10 to 15 minutes every 1 hour for the first day and every 3 to 4 hours after that.
  • Use ice for the first 3 days. After 3 days, either heat or ice may be helpful if you still have pain.
  • Rest the pulled muscle for at least a day. If possible, keep the pulled muscle raised above your heart.
  • Try not to use a strained muscle while it is still painful. When the pain starts to go away, you can slowly increase activity by gently stretching the injured muscle.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your local emergency number, such as 911, if:

  • You are unable to move the muscle.
  • The injury is bleeding.

Call your health care provider if the pain does not go away after several weeks.

Prevention

The following tips may help you reduce your risk of a strain:

  • Warm-up properly before exercise and sports.
  • Keep your muscles strong and flexible.

Alternative Names

Pulled muscle

References

Biundo JJ. Bursitis, tendinitis, and other periarticular disorders and sports medicine. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 271.

Nakamura N, Rodeo SA, Alini M, Maher S, et al. Physiology and pathophysiology of musculoskeletal tissues. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 1.

Update Date 5/9/2015

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