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Recovery from a Pulled Muscle

Courtney Gordner identifies five ways to come back from a pulled muscle in the middle of training.

When a muscle is stretched too far, a small tear called a muscle pull can occur. If this happens to you, it could be weeks before you are ready to train again, so you must take care of the area as much as possible. While the time needed for recovery depends on the severity, it is a good idea to treat the pulled muscle immediately to speed up the process.

Ice the Muscle

Get some ice on the pulled muscle immediately; this can reduce the swelling and pain. Avoid putting ice on the injury for more than 10 minutes at a time. If the ice pack is left on for more than 10 minutes, a reflex reaction occurs (Hunting effect) where the blood vessels dilate, and blood is again pumped into the injured area, causing further bleeding and swelling. If you do not have an ice pack, frozen vegetables from the freezer will do the trick. When applying ice never apply directly onto the skin as this may result in ice burns to the skin, instead wrap the ice in a damp cloth (a dry cloth will not transmit cold effectively).

Get Some Rest

Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your muscle is resting it. Although you do not have to immobilize the injured muscle completely, you should avoid strenuous movements for one to five days. Keep the muscle elevated to chest level whenever possible. This gives the tear a chance to heal and can prevent the muscle pull from worsening.

If you do not get any rest and ignore the pain, you will significantly delay your recovery. In some cases, this can turn a minor pull into a grade III pull - possibly leaving you unable to train for weeks. You do not need to be a personal injury lawyer to realize just how devastating an injury like this can be for an athlete.

Take Medication

Since a pulled muscle will swell, taking an anti-inflammatory medication can help. This medication will bring the swelling down, which can make the injury less painful. Once the swelling goes down, the muscle will start to heal on its own. Muscle creams can also reduce this swelling very quickly.

Apply Heat

After you get the swelling down, applying heat to the injured area can help to heal the muscle. Sitting in a hot bath, applying a hot towel, or using a heating pad can all give you the intended results. If you own a hot tub, it will correctly work the best. If it's cold outside, make sure your water heater is working properly so that you always have warm water to ease your muscle tension. If you're tight from stress or other activities, you're more likely to get hurt. Hot shows and baths are a great way to help prevent this!


Use a Compression Bandage

Not only does a compression bandage reduce the pain, but it also takes some of the strain off the muscle, which allows it to heal. Avoid pulling the bandage so tight it cuts off your circulation, as this can-do significant damage. If you feel numbness, it means you have wrapped too tightly.

Stretch it Out

As your muscle begins to feel better, you can start to stretch it a little bit. Do not stretch it too far, as this can cause you to re-injure it. Some light stretching will also make your muscles more flexible, which can prevent muscle pulls in the future.

Strengthen Your Muscles

Before you can return to training, it is important to rehabilitate the muscle. Start with some light strength training, such as taking a walk around the block, and gradually increase the intensity. Eventually, the pain will go away, and you will be back to normal. Make sure you do not rush your return, as it is very easy to aggravate this type of injury if you do not give it enough recovery time.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • GORDNER, C. (2013) Recovery from a Pulled Muscle [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Courtney is a freelance writer who loves writing about everything from health fitness to recovery treatment.