What happens when you pull or strain a muscle?

Updated April 17, 2017


Your muscles act as the support for bones and organs and are the engine that helps the body move. They do this by converting energy received from food into motion, making their health vitally important for almost all of your body’s physical processes. Muscles expand and contract to assist the body in all its movements, and since muscles all over the body are used so often, their risk of being damaged is high. One of these ways is to “pull” or strain the muscle.

Pulling the muscle

A pulled muscle occurs when there is some damage to the muscle, or its attaching tendons, due to unnecessary strain. Most of the time, this is a result of not warming up or stretching too vigorously before you begin a workout. Putting intense pressure on a muscle that is not strong enough to withstand the force can cause a pulled muscle, which also causes damage to the blood vessels that surround it. When this occurs, you may experience pain, bruising and swelling in the area surrounding the injury.

If the injury is severe enough, you may experience pain when the muscle is not moving at all. You may find there has been a general weakening of the muscle that can vary in severity from a small pain to complete loss of function.


There are several ways to heal a pulled muscle. If the pain isn’t too severe, try taking over-the counter-pain medications to help the pain and wrap the injured muscle to reduce any swelling. In addition to compression of the muscle, use an ice pack for 20 minutes every hour to reduce the swelling and make sure that the muscle stays elevated. Do not attempt to use the muscle until it has healed completely. These methods should help a pulled muscle within a day. If the muscle is not healed in this period of time, it may indicate a greater injury and you should seek medical attention.

More than likely, a doctor will prescribe you to the same regimen as seen above, but they will be better able to determine if you need more assistance from a brace or sling. Pulled muscles very rarely require surgery, but if the injury is severe enough or if there is a chance for major damage to the muscle, a doctor may perform a corrective surgery.


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About the Author

Based in California, Daniel Zisko has been a writer since 2008, penning articles for a variety of online publications. Before he started a writing career, he spent several years traveling and working as a hotel manager for several different hotel properties. Zisko holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from National University with a minor in biology.