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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

  • Excessive physical activity or effort
  • Improperly warming up before a physical activity
  • Poor flexibility

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.

  • 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.

Update Date: 8/26/2003

A.D.A.M. editorial. Previously reviewed by Benjamin D. Roye, M.D., M.P.H., Department of Orthopaedics, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (7/19/2001).

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