How to Recover From a Pulled Muscle

Nobody likes to have their workouts put on hold for days, weeks even months over a pulled muscle. So if you did tweak your back, shoulder, hamstring or any other muscle, what is the fastest way to get it feeling back to normal? In this article, I am going to answer this question, based on what science has shown.

Read this before continuing!

Before following the steps below, it is very important to determine how badly you pulled this muscle. Muscle pulls or tears are grouped into 4 different grades (grade 1, 2, 3 and 4) based on the severity of the injury.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of sharp, needle-like or stabbing pain at the time of injury in combination with a “snap” followed by sudden onset of pain, you need to either see a physiotherapist or go to the emergency room. You’ve probably done some serious damage to your muscle which is beyond what I, or Dr. Google can help you with.

If however you are confident that it is not as severe as what I described, you may proceed to the appropriate steps.

Step 1: Rest the Muscle

Stop whatever activity you are doing and try and immobilize the injured area. Do not try and lift weights again, do not go back on the sports field, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

It is critical that you do everything you can to prevent further tears, inflammation or damage. If you don’t spend enough time resting the injured area, you will end up doing more damage down the road which will slow down your recovery.

Step 2: Apply Ice & Pressure

Once you have immobilized the muscle, find something cold and apply it to the area. This could be an ice pack, frozen peas or whatever you can get your hands on. The goal is to reduce bleeding and inflammation in the injured muscle. This will in turn reduce swelling and pain.

Apply ice for 10 minutes 2-3 times per day for up to 7 days, or until the swelling stops.

Step 3: Hydrate

One of the big reasons why your muscles cramp up, or get pulled is because they aren’t getting enough water. Water is a key lubricant for your muscles and joints, and works in a similar way that oil does for your car engine.

Drinking extra water will not only help speed up the recovery process, but prevent future muscle strains as well!

Step 4: Perform Low Intensity Movement

After a day or 2 when the pain and swelling has started to settle, it’s time to get that muscle moving again. Start by doing short sessions of very low intensity cardio, gentle calisthenics, and static stretches. Doing so will help elongate scar tissue in the muscle and stimulate the nervous system so that the healing process can be accelerated.

Aim for about 5 minutes of each 2-3 times a day for a few days.

Step 5: Apply Heat

Now that the swelling has stopped, it is important to keep the muscle warm and loose. Just like warming up before a workout prevents injury, the same idea applies for muscle strain therapy.

Applying heat will increase blood flow to the area, help with pain relief and restore some of the range of motion you had lost after the injury. Aim for 10-20 minutes twice a day.

Step 6: Progressive Muscle Contraction

When the pain is all but gone, it is now time to perform isometric contractions of the muscle and eventually progress to multiplane dynamic loading. We are trying to restore total range of motion and function by increasing blood flow and stimulating the nerves innervating the muscle.

Perform these types of movement accompanied with a dynamic warmup until the pain is gone, and your strength has returned.

Work With a Pro:

At Stephen Fitness & Rehabilitation, we offer personal training and physiotherapy services specifically designed for individuals or suffer from muscle strains.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one become stronger more mobile and independent in the comfort of their own home!