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Strain (injury)
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 M62.6, T14.3
ICD-9 848.9
MeSH D013180

A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon in which the muscle fibers tear as a result of overstretching. Strains are also colloquially known as pulled muscles. The equivalent injury to a ligament is a sprain.[1]


File:2010-10-02 pulled hamstring.jpg

Two images of the same strain. One of the pictures was shot through a mirror.

Typical symptoms of a strain include: localized pain, stiffness, discoloration and bruising around the strained muscle.


Strains are a result of muscular-fibre tears due to overstretching. They can happen while doing everyday tasks and are not restricted to athletes. Nevertheless, people who play sports are more at risk of developing a strain due to increased muscle use.


The first-line treatment for a muscular strain in the acute phase include four steps commonly known as R.I.C.E.[2][3]

  • Rest: Stop all unnecessary activities, especially those that cause pain, to prevent the strain from progressing.
  • Ice: Apply ice to reduce swelling by increasing blood flow to the injury site. Never ice for more than 10–15 minutes at a time. Place a layer of fabric or paper between the ice and the injury to avoid freezing the skin.
  • Compression: Wrap the strained area to reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Keep the strained area as close to the level of the heart as is conveniently possible to keep blood from pooling in the injured area.

The ice and compression (cold compression therapy) will stop the pain and swelling while the injury starts to heal itself. Controlling the inflammation is critical to the healing process and the icing further restricts fluid leaking into the injured area as well as controlling pain.

Cold compression therapy wraps are a useful way to combine icing and compression to stop swelling and pain.

This immediate treatment is usually accompanied by the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs[4] (e.g., ibuprofen), which both reduce the immediate inflammation and relieve pain.

It is recommended[5] that the person injured should consult a medical provider if the injury is accompanied by severe pain, if the limb cannot be used, or if there is noticeable tenderness over an isolated spot. These can be signs of a broken or fractured bone, a sprain, or a complete muscle tear.

Therapeutic ultrasound can be used to break down poorly healed muscle strains and permit them to heal properly.

See also


  1. Fitness For Dummies p 60, Suzanne Schlosberg, Liz Neporent, For Dummies, 2005, ISBN 0764578510
  2. Template:MedicalMnemonics
  3. T. A. Järvinen, et al., "Muscle injuries: optimising recovery" , Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol., 21 (2) Apr 2007, pp. 317-31.
  4. TJ Noonan and WE Garrett, Jr, "Muscle strain injury: diagnosis and treatment," Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 7 (4), Jul-Aug 1999, pp. 262-9, see web version (accessed Aug. 25, 2008)
  5. R. Neustaedter, "Natural Treatment for Injuries" (accessed Aug. 25, 200

Template:Dislocations, sprains and strains

als:Muskelzerrung de:Muskelzerrung es:Desgarro muscular fa:کشیدگی ماهیچه‌ای fr:Déchirure musculaire ja:肉離れ pt:Distensão sv:Muskelsträckning

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