Muscles are fibrous tissues that can become torn in various injuries. A torn muscle is referred to as a strained or pulled muscle. A muscle strain most often occurs when the muscle is required to contract forcefully, such as in sporting events. Muscles can become torn from not being properly stretched or warmed up before an activity or because the muscle is weak or not fully healed from a previous injury. Symptoms of a strained muscle include pain or burning sensation in the muscle, especially with movement, swelling, spasm and bruising. Proper treatment is necessary to ensure a full recovery.
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In the initial stage of recovery after a torn muscle, rest is important, especially from the activity that caused the injury. One of the most common places that a muscle tear occurs is the thigh, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, or AAOS, because the muscles here cross both the knee and hip joint. When an injury occurs in the thigh your doctor may prescribe the use of crutches to allow full rest of the injured muscle. In other areas, a brace may be prescribed.
In any muscular injury, ice is a good first therapy. The application of an ice pack over a torn muscle will help stop any bleeding that is occurring into the muscle compartment by causing blood vessel constriction. Ice will also help reduce swelling and pain. Ice packs should never be applied directly to the skin, but should be wrapped in a towel and applied for 20 minutes every two hours. In the first 72 hours after a muscle tear, heat is not appropriate even though it may temporarily feel good.
According to AAOS, wearing an elastic compression bandage helps prevent additional swelling and blood loss. A primary way that a torn muscle heals is through appropriate blood circulation, and so compression is not generally advised beyond the first 72 hours after the injury unless activity of the muscle is required. Keeping the injured muscle elevated higher than the heart can assist in decreasing swelling.
A doctor may prescribe NSAIDs, such as naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin, to help reduce pain and inflammation associated with a muscle tear.
The healing process following a pulled muscle usually involves the body's attempt to immobilize the area and lay down scar tissue, which can have a long-term effect on the muscle’s ability to function at full capacity. A course of physical therapy can help speed recovery, according to Penn State College of Medicine.
In the case of a severe muscle tear, full healing may be impossible without surgically repairing the tear, according to the Mayo Clinic.