Muscle Strain

What is a Muscle Strain?

A muscle tear or muscle strain happens when your muscle is overstretched. Muscle strains can happen in varying degrees– (1 through 3) from a few muscle fibers being torn to nearly all of your muscle fibers tearing.

What Causes a Muscle Tear?

Muscle strains typically occur when your muscle is being overloaded with too much weight or your muscle has reached its limit. Common reasons you may have a muscle injury include:

  • Improper lifting technique
  • Muscle Fatigue
  • Sudden fall
  • Sports Injuries


Muscle Strain Symptoms

When a muscle tear occurs, the entire structure of your muscle is affected including damage to your blood vessels. Once these are damaged, they’ll bleed into the surrounding muscle fibers and tissues leading to swelling and bruising.

If you’ve suffered a major muscle sprain you may experience:

  • Sudden and severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Very limited range of motion
  • Weakness

If it’s a minor sprain, you may have slight pain and stiffness but there may not be as much swelling or bruising.

Muscle Strain Classification

The severity of muscle strains is measured by grades.

  • Grade 1: mild; affects only a small amount of muscle fibers
  • Grade 2: moderate; partial muscle tear affecting a significant amount of muscle fibers
  • Grade 3: severe; a complete muscle tear or rupture

What is the Recovery Process for Muscle Injury?

Depending on the severity of your muscle injury, you may be able to safely treat it at home. It’s often recommended you use the RICE method.

  • Rest: Avoid using the affected muscle for a few days, but not too long. Resting it for a long period of time will cause the muscle to weaken. So move it at a tolerable level and increase the movement as time progresses.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack to your muscle injury in the first 48 to 72 hours to reduce swelling; no more than 20 minutes at a time. Don’t apply the ice directly to your skin.
  • Compression: You can also minimize swelling by wrapping the muscle or using a brace. Don’t wrap it too tightly this can reduce your blood circulation.
  • Elevation: Try to keep your muscle injury above your heart whenever possible.

In addition, you may want to take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen. Acetaminophen may also help with your pain.

If you have a mild muscle strain, you may be able to return to your normal activities after a few days to a few weeks.

When Should I Seek Professional Care for My Muscle Strain?

  • If your injury is more severe: you can’t walk, there’s severe swelling or open cuts
  • You’re experiencing numbness
  • If you heard a popping sound when your injury occurred
  • If at-home methods are reducing the pain and swelling after 24 hours
  • If you have a muscle sprain: unlike strains that involve the muscle fibers, muscle sprains occur when your ligament is torn or stretched

A physician will examine you and perform any necessary tests like a CT or MRI to accurately diagnose you. This will determine what grade of strain you have from one to three. Higher grade strains will likely take longer to recover from, and may need to be surgically repaired followed by rehabilitation with a physical therapist.

Muscle Strain Treatments

Physical therapy for a muscle strain will vary depending on the degree of the injury. The treatment may include:

  • Exercises to improve strength and endurance like plyometric exercises and the incorporation of machines, free weights, treadmill, or a stationary bike
  • Stretches to increase flexibility and mobility. This may include the use of elastic bands
  • Heat, ice, and electrical stimulation to control pain and swelling
  • Massage of the affected area
  • Muscle taping

Where Do Muscle Strains Commonly Occur?


Hip flexor





How To Prevent Muscle Injuries

  • Stretch and perform warm-up exercises before intense activity
  • Don’t push yourself hard too soon
  • Maintain proper posture
  • Lift carefully and with proper technique

Physical Therapy to Treat Muscle Strain Injuries

Whether you’ve suffered a mild muscle strain or a severe muscle strain the physical therapists at New Heights are here to help you get your body functioning as it did before. We’ll even coordinate with your primary care physician if surgery is required and you need rehabilitation. We’ll ease you into some movements to improve your mobility and strength and gradually increase resistance and weight and add more exercises as you get better. So give us a call to schedule an appointment with us, we have two covenient locations in Portland OR and Vancouver WA. We look forward to help you. 

Muscle Strain in Portland OR and Vancouver WA

Seeing Patients in the following Portland and Vancouver areas:

SE Portland | NE Portland | Gresham | Happy Valley | Clackamas | Milwaukie | Mt Tabor | Belmont | Lloyd Center | Laurelhurst | Hollywood District | Downtown Portland | Beaverton | Tigard | Hillsboro | Cedar Mill | Cornell | Sylvan | Cedar Hills

Downtown Vancouver | Fruit Valley | Hazel Dell | Felida | Cascade Park | Camas Washington

East PDX:
(503) 236-3108
(360) 737-3346