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How Long Does it Take to Recover From Muscle Strain & Treatments for Faster Recovery

Suffering from a muscle sprain? Here’s all you need to know about muscle strain and recovery time. Know some of the treatments for faster recovery to ensure you’re up and running quickly.

Muscle strain is a condition, in which a muscle is injured due to a strenuous activity.1 It is possible to put a strain on your muscles while engaging in daily activities or due to quick and sudden movement during sports. A severe muscle strain can lead to a muscle tear. Knowing about the muscle strain recovery time and treatments for faster recovery can help in planning your fitness program and routine.

How Long Does it Take to Recover From Muscle Strain?

It is likely that you will strain any muscle that moves the bones. The muscle strain recovery time largely depends on the type of muscle strained, the severity and the treatment received. Some of the muscles that are commonly strained include the lumbar muscles, abdominal muscles, biceps muscles, hamstring muscles of the posterior thigh, triceps muscles, quadriceps muscles of the thigh, calf muscles, upper back muscles, neck muscles, and the chest’s intercostal muscles and oblique muscles.

The common symptoms and signs of a muscle strain include

  • Swelling, bruising or open cuts as a result of the injury 2
  • Pain in the affected muscle
  • Pain when the specific joint or muscle is used
  • Weak sensation of the associated muscle or tendons
  • Inability to use the muscle affected

The good news is that back muscle strains usually heal with time, with most muscles healing with a few days, and almost all of them getting back to normal within 3 to 4 weeks. The large muscles in the lower back get good blood supply, ensuring the necessary nutrients and proteins for healing to be quick and less painful. The muscle strain recovery time in case of back muscles is few weeks, particularly when it is not associated with any severe pathology and is treated in time.

How Long Does it Take to Recover From Muscle Strain?

If the pain for the lower back muscle is severe, you may be asked to take it easy and rest for a few days. However, rest in this case would mean for just one or two days. You might want to refrain from engaging in strenuous activities.

Time taken to recover from neck, hands and legs muscle strain usually take few days to few weeks, depending on the severity of strain. In case of sports injuries, repeated stress or overuse injuries, it may take a little longer to recover if the activities are resumed without proper healing. Hence, it is important to follow medical advice, take appropriate rest and follow the rehabilitation program, as advised to ensure faster recovery.

Treatments for Faster Recovery From Muscle Strain

Muscle strain is usually not very serious, if proper treatment and care is taken. Timely treatment and restriction of painful activities for a specific period can help to prevent complications. Some treatments for faster recovery from muscle strain need to be adopted to obtain effective results.

Take Rest

When you have a muscle strain, refrain from engaging in the activity that caused it in the first place. Pulled muscles are actually rips in muscle fibers, and adding more pressure to it will cause the tear to grow, leading to a more serious injury. Giving rest to the strained muscles is the most essential treatments for faster recovery.

If a pulled muscle occurs while playing a sport or running, the best thing to do is sit it out and relax. Take a few days to recover before jumping back and resuming normal activity.

Cool the Muscle

Using an ice pack on the area with swelling helps ease the pain.2 Wrap the ice in a thin towel to ensure your skin does not get damaged. Place the ice pack on the affected area for about 20 minutes at a time for a few times a day to ensure the swelling subsides.

If you don’t have ice at home, a bag of frozen peas or vegetables can also work as a substitute. Do not opt for a heat compress as it will not ease inflammation.

Application of ice helps reduce inflammation, swelling and pain, thus making it one of the effective treatments for faster recovery.

Protect the Area

Wrapping the area of the pulled muscle can help in reducing inflammation and provide support to prevent a further injury. An ace bandage can be wrapped loosely on your arm or leg.

Avoid wrapping the area too tightly as it could inhibit circulation. If an ace bandage is not readily available, cut an old pillowcase into long strips and use it to compress the area of the pulled muscle. This will provide relief and ensure fast recovery. Follow medical advice, if needed.

Off the Ground

When you strain a muscle, the first thing you should do is elevate the part. When you raise the inflamed area, the swelling can go down. Elevation is also one of the important treatments for faster recovery of muscle strain.

If you have pulled a leg muscle, rest it on a chair or ottoman while you sit. If you have strained an arm muscle, you can use a sling to elevate it.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) can reduce pain and help you move around the house easily when bogged down by a pulled muscle. These medicines are effective in treating inflammation and one of the recommended treatments for faster recovery in muscle strain. If the pain is unbearable, it is best to seek medical opinion. Try not to take more than the recommended dosage and follow only as advised.

Monitor Progress

Using an ice pack and resting the muscle should take care of it, ensuring you will be back to normal in a few days. If you experience severe pain that shows no sign of improvement, see a doctor. You might require medical attention in that case.

How to Prevent Muscle Strains?

If you want to avoid a muscle strain, you could do the following:

Muscle strains usually occur due to inadequate warm up before participating in the activity. Take the time to stretch and warm up your muscles before you perform such a physical activity.

Another common cause of muscle strain is weak muscle or previously injured muscle. Incorporate weightlifting as well as other strength training into your workout schedule to strengthen the muscle. It can reduce the chances of a muscle strain during a physical activity. Use free weights when at home. You can use weights at the gym to build a solid, strong core, thereby keeping your muscle loose. A combination of flexibility and strength training exercises can keep the muscles supple and strong. Regular exercises or physical therapy for injured muscles can help prevent muscle strains.

While engaging in physical activity, you might be pushing too fast, too soon. This could have serious repercussions on your health. Even with a muscle sprain, you might be willing to push through the pain in the ‘never give up’ spirit. However, you should remember that adding more pressure on a strain on a pulled muscle will only aggravate it further. If it leads to a deeper tear, you might have to give up on working out or playing sport for a long time. Muscle strain recovery time depends on the severity of injury. Hence, prevent as much as possible, understand the strain at the earliest and take up treatments for faster recovery to prevent further damage.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 2, 2019

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