How to Treat a Pulled Muscle



Please note the below is not a substitute for medical care from a licensed medical professional.  We recommend you consult your primary care physician for all possible injuries.

 

Step 1 – Rest and Inflammation Control

(24-48 hours post injury)

When you injure a muscle you need to rest it and take steps to control inflammation to speed up the recovery process.  Rest means not performing any activity that uses that muscle.  The more you use a pulled muscle right after it has been injured the more inflamed it will become and the longer it will take to heal.  So for the first 24 to 48 hours stop using that muscle and all connected muscle groups and apply a cold ice pack two times per day for three to four rotations of fifteen minutes on the muscle and fifteen minutes off.  This will limit your body’s inflammatory response and allow the healing process to begin.  Getting anti-inflammatory pills from your physician can also help this process.  It is very important to drink LOTS of water throughout this process so your body is able to flush out the byproducts of the injury and carry nutrients to the injured muscle.

 

Step 2 – Rest and Circulation

(48 hours to 7-14 days post injury)

After controlling inflammation, the next step is to promote circulation to the affected area.  Muscles heal when byproducts from the injury are replaced with nutrients.  Therefore, the more circulation you provide an injured muscle the faster it will heal.  Heat expands blood vessels, allowing for greater circulation.  Apply a heat pack or heated pad to the injured muscle two times per day for three to four rotations of fifteen minutes on the muscle and fifteen minutes off.  If you find that applying heat makes the  muscle feel worse go back to Step 1.  It is important that you do not use the muscle during this step as well.  The muscle needs to heal before you can use it again. It is very important to drink LOTS of water throughout this process so your body is able to flush out the byproducts of the injury and carry nutrients to the injured muscle.

 

Step 3 – Circulation, Massage, and Range of Motion

(7-10 days to 4-6 weeks post injury)

Now that the muscle has completed it’s initial healing process, it’s time to start regaining your range of motion as the muscle continues to heal.  When a muscle heals from an injury, it loses some of its mobility because it has heals shorter than it was before the injury due to the lack of us.  The next step in the recovery process is slowly strengthening and lengthening the muscle back to its original state while still promoting blood flow.  Keep applying heat to the muscle two times per day for three to four rotations of fifteen minutes on the muscle and fifteen minutes off.  Deep tissue massages during this step will also speed up the recovery process.  During this step, perform the stretching routine for the daily workout TWICE per day.  Only stretch the injured muscle if you do not feel pain.  There might be a mild soreness and/or a tight feeling in the muscle.  This is normal and only GENTLY stretch the injured muscle to the point where you feel one of these sensations but NO FURTHER.  Depending on the severity of the injury, it might take up to three months to regain full mobility in that muscle so be patient. The point of this step is to keep promoting the healing process with good circulation and making sure you don’t lose flexibility in the rest of your body.  Also start doing activities that lightly use the muscle and the surrounding muscle groups but no full workouts.  It’s very important to start using the muscle in this step to avoid atrophy but dialing up the intensity too quickly will result in reinjury and going back to Step 1.  It is very important to drink LOTS of water throughout this process so your body is able to flush out the byproducts of the injury and carry nutrients to the injured muscle.

 

Step 4 – Strength and Range of Motion

(4-6 weeks to 8-12 weeks post injury)

At this point you shouldn’t feel any pain when using the muscle.  You may experience some mild tightness but using the muscle should not hurt.  You should also have regained approximately 80% of your range of motion and be able to perform full workouts.  If you are ready for this step in the middle of a phase of The Health Program perform the Transition Works available on the Health homepage.  These workouts are designed to progress the body into a state where it is ready to train at 100% intensity.  If any part of a workout causes a “tweak” or small acute pain in the muscle, dramatically decrease the weight you are using so you can complete the exercise without pain or modify the exercise.  Keep performing these workouts (which include the stretching routines) until you have regained your full range of motion.