Muscle Strains and Tears

Injuries of varying severity resulting from the overstretching of a muscle

  • More common with increasing age
  • Intensive athletic training and lifting heavy weights are risk factors
  • Gender and genetics are not significant factors

Muscle strain occurs when a muscle is overstretched, damaging some of its fibres. A tear occurs when the damage is severe and affects many muscle fibres. Both conditions are usually caused by sudden, strenuous movements and occur most often in people who play sports. Abdominal and back muscles may be injured by lifting heavy objects. Athletes are particularly susceptible to these injuries. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, and bruising.

Muscle strains and tears may be prevented by preparing adequately before sports activities (see Warming up and cooling down in your exercise routine). If you do strain or tear a muscle, consult your doctor. To speed recovery, apply a cold compress or ice pack. When the pain and swelling subside, usually within 2 days, you can exercise the muscle gently. However, if pain remains, consult your doctor.

Your doctor may suggest that you take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. He or she may also advise you to rest the affected muscle and receive physiotherapy. If the injury is severe, you may have an X-ray to rule out a fracture. Rarely, surgery may be needed to repair a muscle that has been badly torn.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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