DefinitionA strain is when a muscle becomes overstretched and tears. This painful injury, also called a "pulled muscle," can be caused by an accident, improper use of a muscle, or overuse of a muscle.
Alternative NamesPulled muscle
CausesA strain may be caused by:Excessive physical activity or effortImproperly warming up before a physical activityPoor flexibility
SymptomsSymptoms of a strain can include:Pain and difficulty moving the injured muscleDiscolored and bruised skinSwelling
First AidApply ice immediately to reduce swelling. Wrap the ice in cloth. Do not place it directly on the skin. Apply ice for 10 to 15 minutes every 1 hour for the first day. Then, every 3 to 4 hours.Use ice for the first 3 days. After that, either heat or ice may be helpful.Rest the pulled muscle for at least a day. If possible, keep the pulled muscle raised about your heart.Avoid using a strained muscle while it is still painful. When the pain starts to go away, you can slowly increase activity.
Call immediately for emergency medical assistance ifCall your local emergency number, such as 911, if:You are unable to move the muscle.The injury is bleeding.Call your doctor if the pain does not go away after several weeks.
PreventionThe following tips may help you reduce your risk of a strain:Warm-up properly before exercise and sports.Keep your muscles strong and flexible.
ReferencesBrinker MR, O’Connor DP, Almekinders LC, et al. Physiology of Injury to Musculoskeletal Structures: 1. Muscle and Tendon Injury. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 1, section A.