9 simple steps to recover from a muscle strain

9 simple steps to recover from a muscle strain

Have you ever experienced a muscle strain and wondered what the best way to recover from it is?  On the blog today, we discuss what a muscle strain actually is and share 9 simple steps you can do at home to recover from it.

Is it a strain or a sprain?

muscle strain occurs when there is stretching or tearing of a muscle or tendon, when a muscle stretches beyond its normal range of motion, or more load is put on the muscle than it can handle.

This differs from a joint sprain which occurs when the ligaments or other tissues surrounding the joint are partially or completely torn.

Muscle Strains

A muscle strain can occur in any part of the muscle; within the muscle belly itself or closer to the the tendons that join the muscle to the bone at their attachment sites.

The most commonly strained muscles, and those that we see presented most in the clinic are within the; hamstrings, quadriceps, calf, glutes, bicep and rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder.

Common Causes Of Muscle Strains

The following activities are the most common causes of muscle strains:

  • Sudden heavy lifting
  • Overuse of the muscle
  • Prior injury in the same area
  • Muscle tightness
  • Failure to warm-up properly before exercising
  • Increasing the intensity too quickly during exercise or sports scenarios

Types of Strain

  • Grade 1 – microtears within the muscle, less than 10% torn
  • Grade 2 – partial tear of the muscle, approx.. 10-50% torn
  • Grade 3 – extensive or complete tear, more than 50% of muscle fibres torn


When muscles are strained, cells are disrupted and bleeding can occur which may cause bruising. Within a few hours, swelling can occur, causing the injured area to feel tight and stiff. Muscle tightness and pain can cause a reduced range of motion and muscle weakness.

  • Grade 1 – pain and tenderness in the area, but no loss of strength
  • Grade 2 – pain and tenderness in the area, mild swelling, mild loss of strength and often bruising
  • Grade 3 – complete loss of function of that muscle, considerable pain, swelling and bruising

How To Treat A Muscle Strain

For a long time, we have all known to follow the acronym RICER (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Refer to Health Professional) after any injury, and if used can still be beneficial for your recovery. However, this has recently been changed by the British Journal of Sports Medicine as more evidence is now available.

The new acronym is PEACE and LOVE which we have outlined below.

If you experience a muscle strain, it is important that you follow the following steps in the first 24-72 hours:


Avoid activities and movements that increase pain in the first few days after injury.


Elevate the injured limb higher than the heart as often as possible.

Avoid Anti-Inflammatories

They can reduce tissue healing, also avoid ice.


Use an elastic bandage or taping to reduce swelling.


Your body knows best, allow it the time to heal before introducing medical intervention and investigations.

After the first 72 hours for subsequent management:


Let your pain guide you to return to normal activities.


Condition your brain for optimal recovery by being confident and positive.


Choose pain free cardio activities to increase blood flow to repair tissues.


Restore mobility, strength and proprioception by adopting an active approach to recovery.

This is where the team at CCH can help, through a thorough treatment and management plan they can assist you in getting back to what you love to do safely and effectively.

How To Prevent A Muscle Strain

Prevention is key! The following measures may help reduce your chances of sustaining a muscle strain injury:

  • Warm up prior to participating in sports matches and training.
  • Don’t skip the cool-down stretches. This recovery period helps muscles distribute and eliminate waste products.
  • Increase the intensity of any training gradually and with correct technique.

The team at Canterbury Health Hub can help identify the cause of your strain and build you a treatment plan going forward. This may include hands-on manual therapy, exercise prescription and advice on rehabilitation exercises.

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This article is for information purposes only. Please consult your Osteopath or primary healthcare professional for further information.

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