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How Long it Takes for a Muscle Strain to Fully Heal

By: Alyssa Burke, PTA

You may have heard someone say they “pulled a muscle”, but do you really know what that means? A pulled muscle is another way of describing a muscle strain. This is a very common injury in people of all ages and those that are elite athletes and in individuals who have a more sedentary lifestyle. It can happen in any muscle, no matter the size.  

Our bodies are made up of hundreds of muscles that vary in shape and size. Muscles are made up of muscle tissue, connective tissue, nerves and blood vessels. Our muscles attach to our bones with tendons. Our bodies move as our muscles contract allowing movements at our joints.

So what really happens when we strain a muscle? A strain occurs when the muscle fibers within our muscle become overstretched or tear. A strain can happen if a muscle if stretched beyond its limits or it is forced to contract too strongly. It also occurs as a result of fatigue, overuse or improper use of a muscle. There are different severities when dealing with muscle strains. In minor strains, the muscle stays intact and only a few muscle fibers are stretched or torn. In severe strains, the muscle is completely torn and loses its function.

For individuals that experience a muscle strain, here are some common symptoms to be aware of:

  • Muscle pain or soreness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Muscle cramping or spasms
  • Hearing or feeling a pop in the injured muscle

If the strain is severe, you may also experience a loss of range of motion and function in the injured muscle. Severe strains may also notice a change in the shape of the injured muscle because of the muscle tear.

Depending on the location and severity of the muscle strain, these symptoms can stick around for a while. For a minor strain, symptoms can decrease in the first two weeks and take about four to six weeks to fully heal. Mild to moderate strains can take up to eight to ten weeks to heal. More severe muscle strains often require surgery and can take months to completely heal.

Muscle strains aren’t an injury that you want to “push through the pain”. Strains require appropriate healing time so that they don’t become worse. If you think you may have a muscle strain, it’s best to stop the activity and ice. Physical therapy is a great solution if you experience a muscle strain of any severity. With a personalized plan of care, you will learn ways to manage your symptoms and how to get back to your activities pain free and with tools to prevent re-injury in the future. Call our office TODAY at 703-450-4300 and schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists. CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you.

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