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A muscle strain is damage the internal structure of the muscle. It can range from minor injury to severe with internal bleeding. If the damaged parts of the muscle pull away from each other, it is called a muscle rupture.
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A muscle strain is caused by stress that the muscle 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 2 joints are at the greatest risk.
Factors that increase your chances of getting a muscle strain include:
Symptoms depend on how you strained the muscle.
Strain while doing physical activity:
Strain from a build up of stress:
You will be asked about your symptoms and how injury happened. The injured area will be examined. A muscle strain can be diagnosed after an exam.
Tests are not often needed. The doctor may use them if there is severe pain or bleeding. Options include:
Treatment depends on the severity of the strain and the muscle involved.
The muscle will need time to heal. Avoid activity that stresses the area. In general, during recovery:
Pain medicine may be advised. These may include:
To prevent reinjury your doctor may recommend:
To reduce your chance of straining a muscle:
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Public Health Agency of Canada
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Orchard J, Best TM, et al. Return to play following muscle strains. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 2005 Nov;15(6):436-41.
Sprains, strains, and other soft-tissue injuries. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedics website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00304. Updated July 2015. Accessed December 31, 2018.
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Last reviewed May 2018 by Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 12/31/2018