Muscle Strain: Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention

Muscle strain, also known as pulled muscle, is a type of soft tissue injury that occurs in our muscles and tendons. Any strenuous movement or heavy physical activities that stress the muscle can result in a strain.

Muscle Strain: Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention

This injury is extremely common in athletes due to improper body mechanics and overstretched tendons. It can also happen to non-athletes while performing strenuous work tasks, and quick heavy lifting during the course of daily normal activities. There are two types of strains: acute and chronic. A severe muscle strain, if not treated properly, may cause muscle tear.

Common causes of muscle strain

Common causes of muscle strain

Muscle strain can happen to anyone, not only to athletes, due to improper use of the muscle. This commonly happens to the neck, shoulder, lower back, hamstring, calf muscle, and usually to a muscle behind your thigh. An acute strain occurs when muscles are being pulled and stretched unusually. It can occur while we are running, jumping, throwing, and lifting heavy objects in an improper position. A chronic strain results from the repetitive movement of muscles. This usually happens in sports like basketball, soccer, tennis, and boxing and also occurs in workers while doing their regular routine. Several studies prove that female athletes over 30 years old have a higher risk of developing ankle strains than males in that age group.

Muscle strain symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Pain at rest
  • Swelling
  • Weakness in the muscle and tendons
  • Muscle spasm
  • Inability to use the affected muscle

What are the risk factors?

  • Lack of conditioning. Poor conditioning of muscles can leave your muscle weak and more likely to sustain injury.
  • Not warming up before activity. Athletes doing an energetic activity without doing any warm-up session, like gentle stretching and walking before doing a sprint, are more likely to get injured. Without these warm-ups and stretches, muscles and ligaments will remain tight, and less flexibility means greater risk for muscle tears and stretches.
  • Muscle fatigue. Tired muscles are less likely to provide good support for your joints. When you’re tired, you’re also more likely to surrender to forces that could stress your joint.
  • Carrying heavy weights. The heavier the weight you’re carrying, the greater the impact of the load on the joints when you are jumping, running and walking. This increases the possibility of torn muscles during the activity.
  • Poor equipment. Improper use of equipment and wearing the wrong footwear can contribute to your risk of strain.

Patients having one or more of the risk factors mentioned above are recommended to seek immediate medical attention if they are experiencing muscle strain and have a history of repeated ankle or other injuries.

How to prevent muscle strain

How to prevent muscle strain

Good warm-ups and stretches before physical activity are key to helping prevent muscle strains and other muscle injuries. It’s also helpful to work on muscle strength and flexibility. It is recommended to be in shape to play your preferred sports or any physical activities. You can protect your joints in the long run by working on flexibility and employing strengthening programs to condition the muscles around the joints, especially the ones that have been injured.


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