A muscle strain is an injury (partial tear) that damages the internal structure of the muscle. The tearing may be so small that one could only see it with a microscope. However, the tearing could be severe enough to cause internal bleeding and cause some muscle fibers to lengthen. If the damaged parts of the muscle actually pull away from each other, it is called a muscle rupture.
A muscle strain is caused by tension or stress applied to the muscle that it cannot withstand. There are several ways that this can happen:
Certain areas have muscles that are more likely to be strained than others including:
Muscles that cross two joints are at risk.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for a muscle strain include:
Symptoms depend on how you strained the muscle.
You immediately feel soreness or pain in the affected muscle. If you try to use that muscle it hurts even more. The area becomes tender, and often has local swelling. In the most severe cases, there may be a skin bruise showing because of bleeding underneath. Moving the nearby joints causes pain. Running and lifting are common activities that cause this type of muscle strain.
When you do an activity that your body is not used to doing, the muscles are not in shape for that kind of activity. There may not be one specific incident during the activity when you feel pain, but the next day a muscle or set of muscles may be very sore. The muscle will be tender, and using it causes pain or discomfort.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, your recent physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The doctor will also examine the injured area for:
Tests may include:
Treatment depends on the severity of the strain and the muscle involved.
Treatment usually includes:
If you are diagnosed with a strained muscle, follow your doctor's instructions.
To reduce your chance of straining a muscle:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Healthy Living Unit
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Last reviewed September 2012 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 09/28/2012
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