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What it Really Means to Pull a Muscle

You may have heard someone say they “pulled a muscle”, or you may have said it yourself, 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, whether you are an elite athlete or an individual that is sedentary. It can happen in any of your  muscles, 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. 

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 severity levels 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. 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. 

Some common symptoms that indicate a muscle strain:

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

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 2 weeks and take about 4-6 weeks to completely go away. Mild to moderate strains can take up to 8-10 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 doing the activities you love, pain free and with tools to prevent re-injury in the future.

By: Alyssa Burke, PTA

Call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center TODAY, at 703-450-4300, to schedule your assessment today!

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