How to treat a torn muscle

Written by genevieve rice
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Torn muscles, or strains, occur when the muscle or its connecting tendons have been overexerted from activities ranging from sports and exercise to heavy lifting. If you've torn a muscle, you are likely to experience pain, bruising, swelling, and weakness in the injured area. Although it's a good idea to see a doctor to find out the extent of the injury, most non-severe strains can be treated easily at home.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Aspirin, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory non-steroid
  • Crutches, cane or sling, depending on your injury
  • Ice pack
  • Elastic bandage

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  1. 1

    Take an anti-inflammatory non-steroid such as aspirin or ibuprofen. This will reduce the pain and swelling resulting from the injury.

  2. 2

    Avoid moving the strained muscle to prevent further injury. Especially within the first 36 hours, a crucial healing period, make sure to protect the affected area. Crutches, canes or slings will support your torn muscle and foster healing.

  3. 3

    Rest the injured area. Depending on the severity of the strain, limit your use of the torn muscle for 24 to 72 hours after the injury. Resting the torn muscle will contribute to healing and prevent any possible injuries while it is most vulnerable.

  4. 4

    Apply ice to the strained area. Within 10 to 15 minutes of the injury, start applying ice to the injured area. Continue to ice the muscle for periods of 20 minutes during every hour you're awake for 72 hours following the injury. Applying cold to the injury not only reduces pain and swelling but helps with tissue regeneration. Always make sure the ice is covered with a plastic bag or towel; ice should never touch unprotected skin. Also, avoid applying heat to the injured area during the first 72 hours as it can increase pain and swelling.

  5. 5

    Compress the torn muscle by wrapping it with an elastic bandage. To reduce internal bleeding and to control swelling, apply firm (but not tight) pressure to the torn muscle continuously for 72 hours following the injury. Compression limits the room for inflammation and restricts blood flow to the area.

  6. 6

    Keep the injured area elevated for 72 hours. Raising the torn muscle above your heart will also reduce blood flow to the injured area to limit both swelling and pain.

  7. 7

    Avoid activities that work the affected area. While the torn muscle is tender, avoid movements that put too much strain on the recovering area. Stop any painful activity immediately that could trigger another injury.

Tips and warnings

  • To prevent any future injuries, make sure to stretch daily, especially before and after strenuous activity such as exercise.
  • See a doctor if pain in the injured area continues for more than two weeks, intensifies, affects normal movement, or is accompanied by fever, nausea or vomiting.

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