Sports and Muscle Strains​

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What Are Muscle Strains?

You can strain any muscle in your body.

Strains occur when your muscle stretches beyond its normal range of motion or when you put more load on the muscle than it's strong enough to handle.

When this happens, the muscle fibers tear resulting in a pulled muscle.

Doctors grade strains — from first degree to third degree — based on how much muscle fiber you've torn.

Common sports strains

In sports, it's possible to pull almost any muscle.

The most common sports strains affect the leg or groin muscles, such as the:

  • Quadriceps — the muscle in the front of your thigh.
  • Hamstring — the muscle in the back of your thigh.

Muscle strain causes and risk factors

Common causes of muscle strains include:

  • Playing sports
  • Pushing or pulling something heavy
  • Exercising
  • Falling

The motions involved in high impact sports can put you at risk of strained muscles.

For example, a:

  • Groin strain can come from quick, side-to-side motions.
  • Thigh muscle strain often happens when you suddenly speed up or slow down while running.

Preventing muscle strains

Warming up before physical activity is key to helping prevent muscle strains and other muscle injuries.

It's also helpful to work on muscle flexibility and strength.

Make an appointment for muscle strains at UPMC Sports Medicine

To make an appointment or learn more about muscle strains, contact UPMC Sports Medicine at 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

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Muscle Strain Symptoms and Diagnosis

Muscle strain symptoms

Pain is the most common symptom of a muscle strain.

When you strain a muscle, you will feel pain at the point of injury. In most cases, you will have pain if you try to move the muscle its full range.

With more severe sports strains, you may:

  • Not be able to move the limb.
  • Have swelling or bruising around the injury. This may appear as late as a few days after straining the muscle.

Muscle strain diagnosis

If you have muscle pain and soreness, you should see a doctor.

During the exam to diagnose a sports strain, the doctor will:

  • Assess the painful area around the sprained muscle.
  • Test your strength.
  • Check your flexibility.

He or she might request an MRI to see the extent of the tear to the muscle.

Make an appointment for sports strain symptoms and diagnosis

To make an appointment or learn more about muscle strain symptoms, contact UPMC Sports Medicine at 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

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Muscle Strain Treatment

At UPMC Sports Medicine, our main goal of muscle strain treatment is to help you regain strength and flexibility so you can safely return to sports.

At-home muscle strain treatment

You can treat most minor sports strains at home with the R.I.C.E. method:

  • Rest — rest for a couple days after the injury to allow your muscle to repair.
  • Ice — apply ice for about 15 minutes every hour or two.
  • Compression — use a compression wrap or shorts to help relieve muscle pain.
  • Elevation — keep the injured limb elevated for the first few days to reduce swelling.

Muscle strain rehabilitation and stretching

After you've rested for two or three days, you can begin stretching and limited movements.

Work on regaining flexibility in the muscle and then slowly add in strength exercises.

If you have pain, take it easy. You shouldn't be in pain with rehab workouts.

Make an appointment for muscle strain treatment at UPMC Sports Medicine

To make an appointment for sports strain treatment, contact UPMC Sports Medicine at 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).

Learn more about sports strain treatment

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UPMC's HealthBeat Blog:

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