Muscle Strains: Diagnosis and Treatment

Muscle Strains: Diagnosis and Treatment

Few Things to Know About Muscle Strain


An overstretched or overworked muscle can result in a muscle strain, an injury of a muscle or its attaching tendons ( the fibrous tissue that connects muscles to bones).

The muscle strains treatment can range from a minor injury that only involves overstretching of a muscle or a tendon to a partial or complete tear of the muscle.

Although most muscle strains can be healed with home care, some severe strains may require medical treatment or surgery.

Also referred to as pulled muscles, strains generally happen in the lower back and the muscles at the back of the thigh. 

Muscle strains can be caused by playing sports, doing physical activity, or also during the day to day activities. Swift identification and treatment can help to speed up recovery.

Sometimes small blood vessels can be damaged by muscle strain causing local bleeding, bruising and pain due to irritation of the nerve endings in the area.


Muscle Strains Symptoms

Muscle strains can cause many uncomfortable symptoms. They include:

  • Bruising and Redness
  • Pain that worsens when one moves
  • Muscle cramps
  • Limited Mobility
  • Muscle spasms
  • Weakness or fatigue of muscles or tendons
  • Swelling
  • Inability to use the muscle at all

Muscle straining can also be accompanied by an audible snapping or popping.

Muscle Strains Causes

A strained muscle is caused by stretching or using the muscle excessively or in an accident, like a fall. Inadequate warm-up before exercise and inflexible muscles can increase the risk of muscle strain. Repetitive movements, such as lifting something heavy accompanied by poor body mechanics or sports can be a few other reasons for chronic muscle strain injury.


When to See a Doctor For Muscle Strains?

Although mild strains can be treated at home, one must immediately seek medical attention if symptoms worsen and one is unable to walk or move or if the pain becomes intolerable or one experiences numbness or tingling.

Muscle Strains Diagnosis

The diagnosis of a medical strain injury usually involves the following steps:

  • The doctor performs a medical examination after taking the history. This helps the doctor to establish whether the muscle is partially or completely torn.
  • Points of tenderness if any and swelling is assessed by the doctor. The location and intensity of your pain can be a determining factor of the extent and nature of the injury.
  • Imaging studies such as  X-rays are sometimes done to make sure that the bone has not broken.
  • The injury is designated as a grade 1, 2, or 3 strain, with grade 1 strain being mild and, while a grade 3 strain a severe muscle tear.
  • Ultrasound may be performed to help to assess the type of soft tissue injury.

Additionally, the doctor may ask about how and when did the injury happen, the types of home treatments tried, or if the party affected has been injured before.


How to Treat a Muscle Strain?

Usually, a muscle strain does not require any medical attention, but it is important to rest the muscle to allow time for recovery. However, a strained muscle is more susceptible to reinjury so adequate rest and precaution are of paramount importance.


Home Remedies for Muscle Strains

Muscle healing can be promoted by several home remedies. 

RICE technique is one of the most effective treatments for recovery from a strain.

RICE stands for:

  • Rest: Avoiding activities that cause pain, swelling, or discomfort and resting the injured muscle allows the body a chance to repair.
  • Ice: Icing the area immediately with a cloth-covered ice pack or slush bath of ice and water for 15 to 20 minutes each time and repeating every two to three hours helps reduce inflammation.
  • Compression: Compressing the area with an elastic bandage can help to reduce swelling.  Cloth or elastic bandages for this purpose are available from drug stores. 
  • Elevation. Elevating the injured area above the level of the heart, especially at night, allows gravity to help reduce the swelling by allowing the fluid to flow back toward the heart.

Medication of Muscle Strains

In addition to the above method, over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help to reduce both pain and inflammation.

Physical Therapy of Muscle Strains

A physical therapist can help you to maximize the stability and strength of the injured joint or limb. Your doctor may suggest that you immobilize the area with a brace or splint. For some injuries, such as a torn tendon, surgery may be considered.

Muscle Strain  Treatments

Sometimes when OTC medications fail to provide relief from the pain, stronger anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants may be prescribed.

Another way to help relax the injured muscles is massage therapy.

Muscle Strain Physical Exercise

Stretching exercises are known to help provide relief from the muscle strain but it is important to seek a doctor’s advice before these exercises, as one may end up overexerting an already injured muscle, leading to extra damage in the process.

There are some things to keep in mind while performing such exercises:

  • Never stretch to the extent that induces pain or discomfort.
  • Each injured area needs specific stretches, which depend on the nature of the injury. 
  • A stretch should always be repeated two or three times.

 Examples of these stretches include:

  1. Hamstring stretch:  Walking and running with tight hamstrings can create difficulty in walking and running and increase the risk of injury. 

This stretch involves stretching the hamstrings and the legs.

  1. Hip flexor stretch: A strained muscle in the hip can be relaxed by lying flat on the back and pulling the right knee to the chest and holding for a few seconds. This stretches the upper thigh and hips, providing relief from the pain
  2. Neck stretches: A strained neck muscle can be greatly relieved by leaning the head forward and trying to touch the chin to the chest followed by leaning the head first to the left and then to the right and trying to touch the ear to the shoulder.


What is the Recovery Time of a Muscle Strain?

The recovery time after a muscle strain depends on the severity of the injury. Whereas most soft tissue injuries take a few weeks to heal, severe strains can take much longer.

 Dr. Tanvir Bhutani best joint Replacement at Eva Hospital suggests that returning to normal activities too soon can lead to further injury, so one must always follow a doctor’s instructions and resume the normal routine very gently.

For the injuries that require surgery, the recovery time is decided by the nature and complexity of the procedure. A discussion with your orthopedic surgeon can help give better clarity in this regard. 

Read More:-Sprains of Knee, Ankle, and Wrist



Muscle strains which can range from mild to severe can happen to anyone who leads an active life. These can range from mild to severe and taking adequate rest and rehabilitating the strained muscle can go a long way for a person to recover and return to the normal physical activity level. 

Some simple stretching exercises, performed with a doctor’s approval, can also be beneficial to provide relief.

However, a worsening pain might be a red flag, and it is best to see a doctor immediately.

For any kind of Sports Injuries Specialist, feel free to contact us online or book an appointment.