A tendon is a fibrous tissue that joins the muscles to bones. Any injury to a muscle or tendon is known as a muscle strain or muscle pull. While minor muscle injuries only overstretch a muscle or tendon, severe injuries may result in partial or complete tears in these tissues. Muscle strains typically occur in the lower back or the muscles located at the back of the thigh, also known as hamstrings. They are usually the result of fatigue, improper use, or overuse of a muscle.
While mild muscle strains can successfully be treated at home through proper rest, icing, compression, and elevation, severe muscle strains often require surgical repair.
This article covers the symptoms of muscle pulls, causes, treatment, and prevention.
Symptoms Of Muscle Pulls Or Strains
Muscle strains are felt immediately as they occur. If your muscle or tend is stressed due to overuse or improper use, you will spot one or more of the following symptoms immediately:
- Sudden pain
- Muscle stiffness
- Limited movement
- Muscle spasms
If you’re experiencing a minor strain, your muscle will feel faintly stiff but will still be flexible enough to move. However, a serious muscle pulls means that your muscle is seriously torn, which naturally results in extreme pain and restricted movement.
The symptoms of minor to moderate muscle pulls typically fade away in a few weeks, while severe muscle pulls usually require a few months to heal.
Causes Of Muscle Pulls And Strains
Muscle pulls or strains are tears in the muscles that may occur quite unexpectedly. These tears often occur as a result of trauma and injuries due to the following reasons:
- Lack of flexibility
- Fatigue or overexertion
- Not warming up properly before running or workouts.
A huge misconception surrounding muscle strains is that they only occur due to high intensity or rigorous works. The truth is that muscle pulls, or strains can even occur from walking, jumping, running, skipping, throwing or lifting a heavy object, or lifting an object while in an awkward position. Minor muscle pulls also occur more commonly in cold weather since muscles get stiffer in lower temperatures.
Chronic muscle pulls or strains, on the other hand, occur as a result of repetitive movements. These strains may occur due to the following reasons:
- Regularly partaking in sports such as rowing, golf, tennis, or baseball
- Poor posture
- Sitting in an uncomfortable position
How To Treat Muscle Strains And Pulls
Most muscle pulls can easily be treated at home in the following ways:
Get Ample Rest
Strained or pulled muscles require a few day’s rests to recover, especially if any movement is causing extra pain. However, too much rest can also cause your muscles to become weak, prolonging the healing process. The best way to deal with it is to begin using your muscle after two days of the strain while ensuring that you don’t overdo it.
Ice the Strained Area
Applying ice immediately after straining your muscle can help minimize swelling. It is recommended not to place ice directly on your body but to use an ice pack. Keeping an ice pack on your strained or pulled muscle for about 30 minutes every day can help relieve pain and reduce swelling.
Compression is another great way to reduce swelling. Wrap an elastic bandage around the affected muscle to bring down the swelling. Remember not to wrap the area too tightly as it can reduce blood circulation.
Keep Your Muscle Elevated
Always try to keep your strained muscle elevated about the level of your heart.
Apart from the above-listed methods, you can take over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen, to keep the pain and swelling under control. You can also apply heat to the affected muscle to improve blood circulation and healing. Once your muscle isn’t hurting as much, you should begin light stretching and exercises to avoid stiffness and weakness.
When Should I See A Doctor For A Pulled Or Strained Muscle?
The kind of treatment you require depends on the symptoms of muscle pulls you’re experiencing. Mild to moderate muscle strains can be treated at home. However, if you experience any of the following, you must seek medical attention immediately:
- Intense pain even after a week
- The impacted area is numb
- You can’t walk
- The injured area is bleeding
- Difficulty moving your arms or legs
Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and certain tests to determine the magnitude of your injury. Treatment of muscle strains usually comprises anti-inflammatory medicines, pain relievers, and/or physical therapy. In some cases, surgery may be necessary for muscle repairing.
How to Prevent Muscle Pulls And Strains
Here are a few basic ways and precautions that can help decrease the chances of muscle pulls and strains:
Avoid Sitting in One Position for Too Long
Whether you’re at work or home, move around and change your position from time to time. Ensure that you use a chair that offers good support to your body, especially your lower back.
Maintain Good Posture
Spending too much time in a single position can cause problems. Whether you’re sitting or standing, try to maintain a good posture by keeping your back upright, as this helps decrease stress on your back.
Be Careful When Lifting Objects
Be careful when lifting any object, especially a heavy one. Keep your back straight, bend your knees, and lift the weight with your legs.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight causes many problems, including frequent muscle strains and injuries. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the chances of experiencing muscle pulls.
Exercising regularly helps keep your muscles strong and healthy. However, when exercising, you need to employ proper techniques to prevent any muscle strains or pulls. It is also imperative to take out time to stretch before and after each workout session to prevent the stiffness of muscles.
The Bottom Line
The recovery time for a muscle strain largely depends on the extent and severity of the injury. With proper care, a mild muscle strain may take about three to six weeks to heal. However, it can take a few months of surgical repair and physical therapy to recover for more severe muscle strains.
In both cases, most individuals recover completely, especially with proper treatment. You can improve your chances of recovery by taking certain extra precautions to avoid the same injury. Also, make sure to consult a doctor if you begin experiencing symptoms in the same area again.