Dealing With Muscle Strains | Stephen Coleclough PT
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Dealing With Muscle Strains

Dealing With Muscle Strains

Most people have experienced a muscle strain at some point in their life.

A muscle strain is a torn or overstretched muscle that occurs as a result of the overexertion of the muscle, muscle fatigue, or the improper use of a muscle.

Any muscle in your body can be affected by muscle strains, but they affect the back, shoulders, neck, and legs most often.

In this guide, I’ll share the symptoms of muscle strains and how they occur.

I’ll also explain how to treat a muscle strain at home and when you should see a doctor.

What are the symptoms of a muscle strain?

In most cases, you will feel the symptoms of a strained muscle shortly after you have injured it.

However, it might take a little while for some of these symptoms to fully manifest.

The most common muscle strain symptoms include pain, soreness, swelling, bruising, a limited range of motion, weakness, and muscle spasms.

It may also feel like the affect muscle is knotted up.

 If you have a mild muscle strain, you may still be able to use the affected part of  your body.

However, severe strains will result in a significant amount of pain and limited range of motion.

What are the causes of a muscle strain?

There are two types of muscle strains — acute and chronic.

An acute muscle strain usually occurs due to sudden forceful movement that tears or overstretches the muscle.

The most common causes include:

Not warming up

Failing to warm greatly increases the risk of a muscle strain or another type of injury because the muscles are stiff and less capable of accommodating a forceful movement.

Poor fitness levels

If you are unfit and have just started to lift weights, dead lifting 120 kilograms will probably result in a muscle strain.

You body simply isn’t prepared to deal with such a heavy lift and the muscles in your shoulders or back will probably be injured.


If you are feeling fatigued during a workout, it is far more likely that your body gives out on you, resulting in a muscle strain.

Poor flexibility

Having poor flexibility can result in some muscles taking much force, which causes a muscle strain injury.

 Muscle strains are more likely to occur when performing demanding tasks like lifting heavy objects, throwing, running, or jumping.

However, they can also occur if you have a slip or fall over.

 Chronic muscle strains occur as a result of a repetitive or awkward movements that damages your muscle.

These kinds of injuries are common in sports where participants are required to repeat a physical action, like rowing, squash, or golf.

Chronic muscle strains can also be triggered by poor posture or holding your body in an awkward position for long periods.

How do you treat muscle strains?

Minor muscle strains can be treated at home using the following techniques:

The PRICE forumla

This approach consists of five steps:

Protect the strained muscle

Remove any constrictive clothing.

Consider bandaging nearby joints to limit pressure on the muscle.

Rest the strained muscle

Avoid any activities that would put pressure on the strained muscle

Ice the strained muscle

Ice the muscle for 20 minutes every hour that you are awake to reduce inflammation.

Small ice packs and bags of frozen vegetables are ideal for icing a strained muscle.

Compress the strained muscle

You can now compress the muscle using elastic bandages.

This will provide support and reduce swelling.

However, avoid compressing the muscle too tightly.

Elevate the strained muscle

If possible, elevate the injured muscle to reduce swelling.

Take pain killers

You can take some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce your pain levels and increase mobility.

Apply heat

After three days, start applying heat to the injured muscle.

This will improve blood circulation and help your body heal the muscle.

Stretch your muscle

Once your pain levels have decreased, begin stretching the muscle gently.

This will reduce the risk of muscle deterioration.

When do you need to see the doctor?

Most muscle strains can be treated at home.

However, you may need to seek medical help if:

  • You are still in pain a week after the injury has occurred
  • You can’t walk after the injury
  • The affected area is deeply discoloured
  • There is blood coming from your strained muscle
  • The affected area has become numb

A doctor will perform scans to ensure that the muscle strain isn’t a severely torn muscle or masking a more serious injury.

If they determine that it is a serious muscle strain they may give you anti-inflammatories and stronger pain killers.

How long does it take to recover from a muscle strain?

Recover time will depend on how much the muscle is damaged.

A mild strain can take as much as 5 weeks to recover from, while a severe muscle strain can take several months.

If you have completely torn a muscle, physical therapy and surgery may be required.

I hope you found Dealing With Muscle Strains informative.

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Stephen Coleclough
Stephen Coleclough

Stephen Coleclough is a personal trainer and online fitness/nutrition coach from the UK. He loves heavy squats, smashing PRs and bacon sandwiches. You can follow him on Twitter at ColecloughPT.

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