Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Incidence Risk Factors Symptoms Evaluation Treatment specialist Home Care pain in adults pain in children rehabilitation warning signs Prevention Outlook Complications Underlying Cause Types Anatomy

Pulled Muscle Home Care

Home care for muscle strains includes:

  • Apply cold compresses:
    • Wrap ice in a moist hand towel. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
    • Apply for 20-30 minutes, every 1-2 hours, for the first few days.
  • Apply warm compresses:
    • Apply for 20-30 minutes, every 4 hours, after 2 days
  • Rest the injury.
    • Use a walker.
    • Use crutches.
    • Use a cane.
  • Apply an elastic wrap.
    • Re-wrap the area every 6 hours.
  • Perform stretching exercises for muscle strain.
  • Perform strengthening exercises for muscle strain:
    • After 10 days
  • Acetaminophen for pain
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for pain:
  • Take prescribed medications as directed:
    • Don't skip doses of your medication. This makes them less effective.
    • Be aware of the common side effects that may be caused by your medication.

For more information:

Pulled Muscle Pain in Adults

Medications commonly used to control pain and inflammation in adults with muscle strains include:

  • Acetaminophen decreases fever and pain, but does not help inflammation.
  • Adult dosing is 2 regular strength (325 mg) every 4 hours or 2 extra-strength (500 mg) every 6 hours.
  • Maximum dose is 4,000 mg per day.
  • Avoid this drug if you have alcoholism, liver disease or an allergy to the drug. See the package instructions.
  • Common brand names include Tylenol, Panadol, and many others.





NSAID Precautions

Pulled Muscle Pain in Children

Common medications used at home for pain in children with muscle strains include:

Aspirin and most of the other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are not used in children except under a doctor's care.

  • Acetaminophen decreases fever and pain, but does not help inflammation.
  • Dosing is 10-15 mg per kilogram (5-7 mg per pound) of body weight every 4-6 hours, up to the adult dose.
  • Do not exceed the maximum daily dose.
  • Acetaminophen products come in various strengths. Always follow the package instructions.
  • Avoid this drug in children with liver disease or an allergy to acetaminophen.
  • Common acetaminophen products include Tylenol, Panadol and many others.

Always follow the package instructions.


Pulled Muscle Rehabilitation

Healing time for most muscle strains is 2-4 weeks. Resume exercise when the swelling and pain resolves.

Use the following guidelines:

  • Choose exercises that involve smooth motions, such as skating, biking, or swimming.
  • Exercise should not cause pain.
  • Increase the intensity and stress on the injured area gradually, as long as the movement does not cause pain.
  • Perform movements on your own: do not allow another person to move the injured joint.
  • Placing the injured area in an ice bath for 3 minutes before exercise may speed healing.
  • Before you advance your level of physical activity, one must be able to:
    • Bear weight on the lower extremities without pain.
    • Move the injured joint completely in all directions.

Tips for safely increasing activity after minor leg strains:
  • Be sure that you can move the joints around the muscle in all directions without pain.
  • Gently increase stress on the muscle by shifting the weight from foot to foot.
  • Bear weight on the heel, then on the toes.
  • Walk with short steps.
  • Walk with long steps.
  • Walk in circles, figure-8, or weaving pattern.
  • Jog in a straight line.
  • Jog in a lazy S or large figure-8 pattern.
  • Jog in a sharp Z or smaller figure-8 pattern.
  • Consider using a light functional splint (e.g. Aircast), to help maintain joint alignment under the stress of physical activity and sports.
  • Further exercises for athletes:
    • Sprint: slow starts and stops (5-10 yards) with your ankle taped by a trainer.
    • Sprint: quick starts and stops (5-10 yards) with your ankle taped by a trainer.

Pulled Muscle Warning Signs

Notify your doctor if you have muscle strains and any of the following:

Continue to Pulled Muscle Prevention

Last Updated: Mar 14, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Pulled Muscle References
  1. Bennett R. Addressing musculoskeletal pain. Geriatrics. 2004 Aug;59(8):11-2. [15332411]
  2. Croisier JL, Forthomme B, Namurois MH, Vanderthommen M, Crielaard JM. Hamstring muscle strain recurrence and strength performance disorders. Am J Sports Med. 2002 Mar-Apr;30(2):199-203. [11912088]
  3. Garnett WR. GI effects of OTC analgesics: implications for product selection. J Am Pharm Assoc (Wash). 1996 Sep;NS36(9):565-72. [8824076]
  4. Orchard JW. Intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors for muscle strains in Australian football. Am J Sports Med. 2001 May-Jun;29(3):300-3. [11394599]
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