A muscle strain, also called a pulled muscle, occurs when the muscle is torn or overstretched. It usually happens as a result of muscle overuse, improper muscle use, or fatigue. Muscle strain can happen in any type of muscle, but it is more common in your neck, shoulder, lower back, and hamstring muscles.
Pulled muscles can cause mild to severe pain and limited movement within the affected muscle group. Mild or moderate muscle strain may be treated at home using ice, heat, and anti-inflammatory medications. Severe muscle strain may require medical treatment.
Symptoms of Muscle Strain
When you suffer from muscle strain, you may experience the following:
- Sudden pain
- Bruising or discoloration of the area
- Knotted-up muscles
- Muscular spasms
First Aid Treatment
When you suffer from muscle strain, you need to take immediate action to prevent it from getting worse. If you experience swelling, you can decrease the risk of further injury by doing the following:
- Protect the muscles by applying a sling, splint, or large bandage.
- Rest the affected muscle for at least one day.
- Ice immediately. Then continue applying ice for about 15 minutes each hour for the next two days.
- Compress by wrapping the area using elastic bandages. Do not wrap tightly.
- Elevate your injured area above the level of your heart for at least one day.
When you experience inflammation and pain, you should take an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Do not take aspirin if you are under the age of 18.
On the second day of the injury, continue to elevate the injured muscle and apply ice every three or four hours. By this time, you should notice considerable symptom improvement. If not, or if you feel symptoms worsening, you should see a health care provider.
Consider these symptoms that indicate that you need to see a doctor soon:
- You still cannot move or put weight on the injured area.
- The injured area has changed color and is pale and cool.
- You experience numbness or a tingling sensation in the affected area.
- The pain got worse.
These symptoms suggest that your muscle strain has gone beyond the level that can be remedied by home treatment.