What is Muscle Tear?

Muscle Tear is referred to a medical condition in which there is a rupture or strain of a muscle or tendons to which the muscle is attached in the body caused due to an injury or due to overworking of the muscles and acute muscle fatigue.

Muscle Tear: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

A Muscle Tear can occur even while doing activities of daily living like gardening or yard work where you may lift something heavy which may result in a tear of the muscle of the shoulders or what we call as a rotator cuff tear. Sportsmen are at much greater risks for Muscle Tears as they put their muscles into overdrive while participating in competitive sports, especially people involved in football, tennis, rugby, etc. People involved in construction are also at risk for Muscle Tears as they tend to lift heavy items repetitively throughout the day which may result in overworking of the muscles resulting in a torn muscle.

Muscle Tear can be partial or complete. A partial muscle tear occurs when only a portion of the muscle fiber is torn while the remaining muscle and tendon is intact. This may cause minimal pain and some functional inability to use the corresponding body part. A complete muscle tear occurs when the entire muscle gets detached from its tendons and is said to be completely torn. In such cases there will be severe pain and inability to use the affected body part. There may also be bruising seen at the region of the affected muscle. There may also be bleeding at times. Treatment for Muscle Tears depends on the severity of the tear and range from icing and elevating to even surgery in extreme cases.

What are the Classifications or Grading of a Muscle Tear?

Muscle Tears are classified into three categories depending on the severity of the rupture:

Grade I Muscle Tear: In this category, the muscle is just overstretched and is not detached from the tendon at all. This may result in mild pain in the region. There may be also mild swelling seen in the area of the muscle.

Grade II Muscle Tear: In this category, there is partial tear of the muscle and some part of the muscle is detached from its tendons. Some of the symptoms include pain and swelling. It may also be difficult for the individual to use that particular body part normally.

Grade III Muscle Tear: This category is given for the severe forms of Muscle Tears. In this category, there is complete tear of the muscle and there is complete detachment of the muscle from its tendons. Symptoms of grade III muscle tears are severe pain and swelling along with severe tenderness and bruising. The patient is unable to use the affected region in any way.

What are the Causes of Muscle Tear?

The root cause of muscle tears is injury to the muscle. These injuries can occur at anytime. Some of the possible causes of muscle tears are:

  • Not warming up adequately before indulging in a physically strenuous exercises or workout.
  • Poor flexibility of the body
  • Overexertion of the body

Some of the other causes of Muscle Tears are:

  • Slip and fall accident
  • Jumping from a decent height
  • Running excessively
  • Throwing like in baseball
  • Heavy lifting
  • Poor posture
  • Sporting activities without adequate techniques

What are the Symptoms of Muscle Tear?

Some of the symptoms pointing to a Muscle Tear are:

  • Swelling over the affected region along with bruising and erythema can be a sign of muscle tear.
  • Severe tenderness at the site of the injury or the affected muscle.
  • Resting pain.
  • Common symptoms of muscle tear is pain with activity or use of the muscle.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Inability of the muscle to function in any way.

How is Muscle Tear Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose a Muscle Tear, the treating physician will first take a medical history of the patient to inquire as to what activity may have caused the patient to present with the symptoms. The physician will then conduct a physical examination looking at the injury site to look for areas of tenderness and swelling. Here it is important to diagnose whether the Muscle Tear is complete or partial as treatment is different for partial tears and for complete tears and so is the recovery period. This can be done by taking an MRI of the injured site which can clearly show whether the patient is suffering from a partial or a complete tear of the muscle.

How is Muscle Tear Treated?

The treatment of Muscle Tear depends on the severity of the tear and whether the tear is partial or complete.

For Grade I Muscle Tears, conservative treatment in the form of NSAIDs like Tylenol or ibuprofen along with resting the muscle for a few days and abstaining from any sporting activity or activity that initially started the symptoms is recommended. NSAIDs are contraindicated in patients who are on blood thinners or have a prior history of kidney issues or gastrointestinal tract problems. Apart from this icing the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes two to three times a day is also beneficial. Applying heat packs are also quite helpful for Grade I Muscle Tears but it should be made sure that both ice and heat should not be applied simultaneously as it may result in development of blisters.

Grade II Muscle Tears can also be treated conservatively with the treatments mentioned above but they take a little bit longer than Grade I Muscle Tears to heal. Surgery is recommended for treating Grade III Muscle Tears as in such cases there is complete detachment of the muscle from its tendons and they need to be reattached.

What is the Recovery Period for Muscle Tears?

Recovery period for Muscle Tears are dependent on the severity of the injury. For Grade I and II Muscle Tears, the patient can return to normal activities gradually with three to five weeks. In cases of Grade III Muscle Tears or where surgery is required for correcting the tear, the recovery may take up to six months with physical therapy after surgery and then gradual return to normal activities after a severe muscle tear.

With treatment, majority of the patients with muscle tear recover completely but for that the patient needs to be diligent with medical followup and adhere to the instructions of the treating physician and physical therapist so as to hasten recovery and return back to normal activities as soon as possible after suffering from a muscle tear.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 3, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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