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First Aid Treatment for Muscle Strain

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When the muscle fibers are injured from over stretching or pulling, muscle strain is likely to occur. It can also take place as a result of a muscular tissue injury that may cause internal bleeding and a rupture of the muscle fibers. Muscle strain is often termed as a pulled or stretched muscle. The main cause of the condition is due to fatigue, overuse or improper warming up of the muscles before a strenuous activity such as an exercise.

Common causes of a muscle strain

Acute strain develops if you slip or lose your footing, jump, run or throw, lift something heavy and lifting in an awkward position. Chronic muscle strain develops as a result of repetitive movements such as sports (rowing, tennis, golfing, or baseball), holding your back and neck in an awkward position for long periods and poor posture. Your doctor will likely ask about your lifestyle and common physical activities that may be suspected to cause muscle strain. The injured area will be examined for muscle tenderness, pain upon contraction and resistance and pain when stretching. Imaging studies may also be recommended by your doctor such as MRI and CT scans as well as X-ray to get an accurate view on the extent of the muscle injury.

Muscle strain symptoms

muscle strain

muscle strain on the elbow

A mild strain may not hamper the quality of your body movement, however a severe strain may cause significant pain upon movement of the injured muscle. Other symptoms may also manifest including the following:

  • Sudden onset of pain
  • Soreness
  • Limited range of motion
  • Bruising, discoloration
  • Swelling
  • Muscle spasm
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness

Immediate care for muscle strain

You can apply the following self management approach to ease the discomfort caused by a strained muscle. These first aid responses will help reduce the symptoms and can provide you significant relief caused by a muscular injury.

  • Control swelling by applying ice immediately. Wrap the ice with a cloth first before application and continue the ice application 10 to 15 minutes for one hour.
  • Protect your injury by immobilizing it using elastic bandage, sling or splint.
  • Rest your affected muscle for a day.
  • Elevate your injured muscle above the chest level for at least 24 hours.
  • Avoid movement of the affected muscle to prevent soreness and pain.

The treatment of muscle strain is usually based on the severity of symptoms. During the course of the condition, call 911 as soon as possible if the following occurs:

  • Popping sound from the injury
  • You can’t walk
  • There is a significant swelling, pain, fever, bleeding or open cuts
  • You’re not able to move the muscle


NYU Langone Medical Center. Muscle Strain. Retrieved on June 25, 2014 from

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