Muscle strain, also known as a pulled muscle, is an injury caused when a muscle or tendon (the tissue that connects muscle to bone) is stretched or torn due to overexertion, sudden movement, or excessive force. This can happen during activities that involve sudden or unaccustomed use of a muscle or when a muscle is stretched beyond its normal range of motion.

Young man suffering from muscle strain in his shoulder.
A pulled muscle can be painful and make daily life difficult.

Common Causes of a Muscle Strain

There are many ways that a muscle can become strained, from poor posture to a more serious accident. Sometimes, however, we don’t know how to get muscle pain. It just “happens”.

Here are some common symptoms of a strained muscle:

  • Pain or tenderness in the affected area.
  • Swelling or bruising.
  • Limited range of motion or stiffness.
  • Muscle spasms or cramping.

Assessing the severity of the problem involves several factors, including the level of pain, the extent of muscle function impairment, and the presence of other symptoms.

Here are some steps you can take to help determine the severity of a muscle strain.

  • Pain Level: Consider the intensity of the pain. Mild strains may cause discomfort or a dull ache, while severe strains can result in sharp, intense pain.
  • Range of Motion: Evaluate the affected area’s range of motion. Severe strains may significantly limit movement, while mild strains may only result in slight discomfort or restriction.
  • Swelling and Bruising: Examine the area for signs of swelling, bruising, or discoloration. Severe strains often lead to noticeable swelling and extensive bruising.
  • Muscle Function: Assess the ability to use the muscle. A severe strain may result in significant weakness or an inability to contract the muscle.

Finding the Right Treatment

Treatment for a muscle strain typically involves the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. More severe strains may require professional medical attention, including imaging studies like MRI, to assess the extent of the injury.

If you suspect a severe muscle strain or if other concerning symptoms accompany it, it’s advisable to seek medical attention for proper evaluation and treatment.

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