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.
- Excessive physical activity or effort
- Improperly warming up before a physical activity
- Poor flexibility
- Pain and difficulty moving the injured muscle
- Discolored and bruised skin
- 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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
- You are unable to move the muscle.
- The injury is bleeding.
Call your doctor if the pain does not go away after several weeks.
- Warm-up properly before exercise and sports.
- Keep your muscles strong and flexible.
Mercier LR. Sports medicine. In: Mercier LR, ed. Practical Orthopedics. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 15.
Cohen I, Jouve C. Trapezius strain. In: Frontera, WR, Silver JK, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 8.
Geiderman JM. General principles of orthopedic injuries. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. St Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2006:chap 46.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.