Pulled muscles are frustrating – you never know when they might occur, and how much they’ll affect your mobility.
They can be sudden – maybe you picked up a box while moving that was too heavy for you or dove for a frisbee and landed in just the wrong spot.
Sometimes they occur when you’ve been doing something you do every day.
For example if you had to sit in an uncomfortable chair at work, and over time the bad posture it created gave your back muscles a strain.
No matter the cause of your pulled muscle, you’ll want it to heal as quickly as possible.
Here at Capitol Physical Therapy in Washington DC, we’re well versed in the nuances of sports medicine physical therapy.
Depending on your injury, we may recommend heat and cold therapy, dry needling, or other physical therapy techniques to get you back on your feet.
But in the meantime, let’s take a look at what a pulled muscle actually is.
What Is A Pulled Muscle?
A pulled muscle is another word for a strained muscle, and is the name for an injury of your muscle or tendon.
Your tendons are the tissues that attach your muscles to your bones.
These injuries might be as small as stretching your muscle a bit too much, but if they’re more severe, it could mean a tear.
Tears can be either partial or complete, which would indicate the severity of your injury.
You may have heard sprains and strains lumped together before, but these are different injuries.
Sprains affect the tendons and muscles that connect two or more of your bones together, while strains or pulled muscles describe injuries to just one part of muscle or tendon.
Your lower back and your hamstrings (the muscles in the back of your legs) are especially prone to muscle strain.
What Causes A Pulled Muscle?
Pulled muscles occur when you push your body too hard, which you can do in numerous ways.
Lifting objects is one way – say you go to lift something that’s too heavy for you, or you lift something from the wrong position, and then you feel your leg or back protest.
RELATED: How To Prevent Injuries When Lifting Heavy Objects
Your ankles, hands, and elbows are also prone to pulled muscles, especially if you do something like playing contact sports.
A pulled muscle that happens suddenly from pushing yourself is called an acute strain.
You could also pull a muscle from overuse if you’re doing a motion that’s very repetitive.
Pulled muscle from this kind of repetitive motion or injury is called a chronic strain.
Poor posture and not warming up properly before and after your workouts can also cause pulled muscles.
RELATED: Poor Ergonomics In The Workplace Physical Therapy Solutions
How Do You Know If You Pulled A Muscle?
The symptoms of a pulled muscle you experience will differ depending on the severity of the strain.
You will probably notice tenderness or pain and that your range of motion is now limited.
Redness and bruising could also occur, along with swelling and muscle spasms.
Muscle weakness is also a sign that you might have pulled something.
Essentially, you’d have trouble using the injured muscle, and you’d notice pain both when it’s in motion and when it’s at rest.
What To Do If You Pulled A Muscle?
If you’re someone who is prone to pulling muscles, or if you’ve recently gotten a nastier strain than you’re used to, you’ll want to know what you can do to feel better.
Luckily, there are a lot of methods for helping you recover from a pulled muscle.
From heat therapy to medication to physical therapy, let’s talk about what you can do.
1. Use RICE
RICE is one of the best known methods for a pulled muscle – it stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
- Rest: keep your muscle rested for a few days by not using it
- Ice: this can reduce inflammation, so apply ice for up to 20 minutes every hour or so
- Compression: wrapping your muscle, as long as it’s not too tight, can help reduce the swelling
- Elevation: keep your affected muscle elevated above the level of your heart to help reduce the swelling
2. Heat Therapy
After about three days, using a heating pad a few times a day can help with your pulled muscle.
Make sure you’re not applying heat directly to your skin, which can cause damage.
If you’re unsure, wrap your heating pad in a towel to keep your skin safe while soothing your pulled muscle.
3. Anti Inflammatory Medication
Pain relieving medication with a focus on anti inflammatory effects may help for you as you recover from your pulled muscle.
This won’t just reduce your pain but the swelling you’re experiencing as well.
Make sure you’re always following the medication’s instructions for quantity so that you don’t accidentally overdo it.
As well, follow your physician’s instructions.
If they advise you to avoid anti inflammatory medication, listen to them.
How Can A Physical Therapist For Pulled Muscle Help?
Your physical therapist will have a lot of ideas about how to help you with your pulled muscle, based on your level of pain and mobility.
First they’ll come up with exercises that target the muscle that’s affected.
They’ll also find exercises to focus on the surrounding muscles, because building up strength in that surrounding area can facilitate the healing of the affected muscle.
Your physical therapist might use techniques to mobilize your soft tissue.
This helps break up any tissue that might be fibrous or have scarring.
They’ll also be able to recommend ice or heat, and help you navigate when to use which – this can be confusing, so you’ll be glad for the help.
Physical therapy will have the goal of getting you back on your proverbial (or actual) feet while making sure your mobility isn’t too affected while you’re healing.
Your physical therapist will even work with you on techniques for preventing future strains.
Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today
If you’re frustrated by strained muscles, we’re here to help.
You don’t have to go through every day working around your body’s functionality – it should be working with you.
Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today.
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005
9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC