Muscle Strains: Symptoms, Treatment & More

There is nothing like being in pain to make a person realize how often we can take health for granted. Easy tasks like getting out of bed, showering, and getting dressed can become difficult when your muscles ache. Eating, driving, or even something as simple as shaking a hand can cause someone excruciating pain if they’ve been injured.

Yet, there are many types of muscular injuries. It may be hard to narrow down what type of injury it is that ails you. Is it a fracture? Tendonitis? A muscle strain?

In the quest to help you determine if it’s time for a trip to the doctor, below is an overview of what muscle strains are, how you can identify them, methods of treating them, and how they can be prevented.

What Is a Muscle Strain?

Muscles are soft tissues that allow us to extend and contract our bodies.  This contraction allows us to move and lift objects. However, if you move too fast, if you lift something that’s either too heavy, or if you use improper form, you could end up tearing the fibers in a muscle. Muscle injuries can also be caused by overuse. This type of injury is commonly known as a muscle strain, muscle tear, or a pulled muscle.

Examples of Activities That May Cause a Muscle Strain

While tearing muscle fiber may sound extreme, the reality is that this type of injury can occur while doing simple activities, such as walking or getting up too quickly. Other activities that can result in muscle strains include:

  • Failing to warm up before exercising
  • Running or lifting with improper form
  • Failing to take rest days from exercise
  • Jumping
  • Lifting heavy items
  • Poor posture
  • Repetitive strain, such as rowing, tennis, or working in an assembly line

Muscle Strain Symptoms

When a person experiences a pulled muscle, symptoms are immediate. The most common ones include:

  • Sudden pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness

If the tear is severe, the person will also experience a limited range of motion. While minor strains heal within several weeks, it can take months to fully recover from more serious muscle tears.

When to See a Doctor for a Muscle Strain

While muscle strains can be painful, the level of pain should subside as days go by. If your pain remains constant, if you feel numbness at the time of injury, if you’re bleeding, or if you can’t place body weight on an injured lower extremity, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Muscle Strain Treatment Options

If the injury is in an upper extremity, such as an arm or neck, keep your strained muscle immobilized by wearing a sling or splint. Then follow the steps described in the Home Remedies section below to keep the pain at bay while your injury heals.

Home Remedies for a Muscle Strain

A minor strain can be treated at home by icing the injured body part, keeping it elevated, and by taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. Rest is also key. Even if you’re an overachiever or an athlete, now is not the time to get back in the saddle. By not taking an adequate amount of time off, you could delay healing or worsen the existing injury.

You should also make an effort to keep the injured muscle elevated. After several days, instead of applying ice, use heat therapy to promote better blood circulation to the area.

Why Do My Muscles Strain so Easily?

If you find that you pull your muscles with frequency, we advise that you do stretches and incorporate regular exercise into your regular routine. This will allow you to (a) maintain a better posture, (b) have an easier time maintaining your balance, and (c) strengthen your muscles. You should also drink more water throughout the day, since dehydrated muscles are prone to injury.

Preventing Muscle Strains

Preventing muscle strains require being mindful of how you conduct activities. Pay attention to the itemized list below to reduce your likelihood of injury as much as possible:

  1. Always warm up before exercising.
  2. Lift heavy objects carefully by using a proper technique and not moving too fast.
  3. Keep a good posture, both when standing and sitting down.
  4. Exercise regularly to strengthen your muscles.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight.
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