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What is a muscle strain?

A muscle strain happens when a muscle is stretched or torn. When people refer to a "pulled muscle," they're often describing a muscle strain. Strains can be caused by a sudden accident or by chronic overuse of a muscle. Many times, a strain causes pain and swelling in the affected area. Fortunately, most mild strains can be treated at home.

A muscle strain is a tear in the either the belly, musculotendinous junction, or tendon, or where the tendon attaches. This can be caused by the muscle being overstretched, overused, stretched too rapidly, muscle imbalance, or dramatic compression forces (being hit). Strains are diagnosed and classified by degree or grade.

1st Degree (Grade 1) Strain: 1-10% tear in the muscle – little to no pain and weakness.

2nd Degree (Grade 2) Strain: 11-99% tear in the muscle – mild to severe pain and weakness.

3rd Degree (Grade 3) Strain: 100% tear in the muscle – little or no pain, severe weakness.

Grade 1 and some Grade 2 strains can be treated with Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE). If there has been no improvement in signs/symptoms after 72 hours you should get checked out by your doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.