What to Do When You Pull (Strain) a Muscle

A pulled (strained) muscle 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.

Generally, the causes for pulling your muscle are excessive physical activity or effort, improperly warming up and/or poor flexibility.

You will know you’ve strained a muscle based on the pain and difficulty moving the injured muscle that is sometimes coupled with discolored and bruised skin and/or swelling

The best remedy for your pull is to ice packs on the area immediately in an effort to keep it from swelling too much. Following this up with routinely applying ice for 10 to 15 minutes every 1 hour during the first 24 hours. Then ice or heat packs, every 3 to 4 hours for a couple of days thereafter.

Always use ice for the first 48 hours. After that, heat may be helpful to speed up the healing process. In addition, rest the pulled muscle for at least a day and whenever possible, keep the pulled muscle elevated above the level of the heart.

Protect the area from further injury by using a brace or support during rehabilitation wherever possible.

In the long term, avoid using a strained muscle while it still feels painful. When the pain subsides, start activity slowly and in moderation.

As a matter of prevention for future pulls, keep your muscles and joints flexible. And as you age, you might need to back off a bit.