How to treat — and avoid — pulled muscles


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Ouch! Pulling or straining a muscle hurts — it also puts a damper on your active lifestyle. It usually happens when the muscle is overstretched and tears. What often follows is pain when moving that muscle, discolored and bruised skin, and swelling, depending on the severity.

The American College of Sports Medicine describes three degrees of strains:

  • First degree: Little tissue tearing; mild tenderness; pain with full range of motion.
  • Second degree: Torn muscle or tendon tissues; limited motion; possible some swelling or depression at the spot of the injury
  • Third degree: Limited or no movement; pain is severe at first but may be painless after the initial injury


If you experience any of these symptoms, ACSM recommends using the P.R.I.C.E. principle:

  • Protect from further injury;
  • Restrict activity for 48 to 72 hours;
  • Ice for 15 to 20 minutes every 60 to 90 minutes;
  • Compress  between icings; and
  • Elevate the area to avoid swelling.


Seek medical help if you see deformities, significant swelling or pain, or changes in skin color.

Do your best to avoid pulling your precious muscles with these following tips:


Warm up & stay flexible

Whether it’s a quick walk or light jog, warming up your muscles before any workout or strenuous activity will protect you from muscle strain. Once you are warmed up, limber up. Dynamic stretching will allow you to take care of both these steps at once. It will increase power, flexibility and range of motion. InShape Fitness has a great 10-minute warmup routine available here. Do some static stretching after your workout.



Total body strength and conditioning will keep your muscle strong and less vulnerable to injury. Consider adding functional training to your strength training. Developed by physical therapists to help rehabilitate patients, functional training targets the core muscles and uses your own body weight and equipment like BOSU, medicine balls, kettlebells and resistance tubes. It works best when tailored to your specific needs, and gets progressively challenging as you gain strength and balance.