Strains

Alternative names
Pulled muscle

Definition
A 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.

Causes

Symptoms

     
  • Pain and difficulty moving the injured muscle  
  • Discolored and bruised skin  
  • Swelling

First Aid

     
  • Apply ice immediately to reduce swelling. Wrap the ice in cloth - avoid using ice 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 elevated above the level of the heart.  
  • Avoid using a strained muscle while it is still painful. When the pain subsides, start activity slowly and in moderation.

Call immediately for emergency medical assistance 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.

Prevention

     
  • Warm-up properly before exercise and sports.  
  • Keep your muscles strong and flexible.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Dave R. Roger, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.