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Muscle Tear: Types, Treatment, Recovery Period, Causes, Symptoms

Muscle tears or muscle strain denotes damage to a muscle and its attached tendons caused by any undue or accidental pressure. Such tear or strain of the muscle may take place at any moment during day-to-day activities, while playing or during any other occasions. Extent of damage from a muscle tear depends on the pressure released on the muscle by any external source or through any activity. In some instances, part or whole of the muscle fibers are affected, while in severe cases the tendons attached with the muscle also get damaged. Again in many instances, the damage may be as severe as causing bleeding or bruising and irritation due to damaged nerves. Muscle tear can happen in any part of the body, but records show that common people are mostly affected by muscle tear in neck, lower back, shoulder and hamstrings.

Types of Muscle Tears

Types of Muscle Tears

According to the severity, muscle tear are categorized into three grades:

  • Grade 1 Muscle Tear: In this stage, micro-tears are caused due to any external injury and the person apparently doesn’t face any functional problem. It is caused by minor trauma leading to soreness in the affected area.
  • Grade 2 Muscle Tear: Partial tear to the muscle is categorized as grade 2 muscle tear or muscle strain. In this condition functionality of the muscle is disturbed to a large extent. Muscle pain and soreness become more intensive than normally bearable.
  • Grade 3 Muscle Tear: In this condition, muscle is fully ruptured causing severe pain and bleeding. In grade 3 stage, condition goes beyond natural recovery and needs medical attention.

It is tough to diagnose the harshness of a muscle tear or strain primarily. Functional tests can evaluate the possibility of activation of a muscle, which is really helpful to determine the extent of injury; however, depending on the situation other diagnostic processes are advised by the doctors.

Symptoms of Muscle Tear

Various symptoms involved in muscle tear or strain are as follows:

  • Sudden feeling of pain
  • Aching
  • Swelling
  • Pain while moving that particular body part
  • Limitation in body movements
  • Spasm
  • Stiffness
  • Either reddishness or faded look of the affected part
  • Weakness in the affected muscle.

Patients show different symptoms in mild and severe muscle tear depending on the grade of injury. In case of mild tear, patients can move the affected body part with some pain and sometimes feel no pain at all, while in severe situations the movement becomes very restricted and patients feel the pain continuously. The symptoms of acute muscle tear normally go away with time or with some medications and physiotherapy. On the other hand, chronic muscle tear issues take months and complex medical treatment to heal. Sometimes, patients need to undergo surgeries to start normal activities once again following a severe muscle tear.

Causes of Muscle Tear

Muscle tear mostly occurs due to injuries or trauma1, however in many instances wrong posture, normal walking, exercising or climbing up stairs may cause this problem. It’s a matter of muscles’ withstanding capacity to external pressures that determines its ability to cope with an external pressure. In some situations, like right after exercise or hard labor, muscles remain in very gentle condition, which means chance of getting tear is high at those moments.

Some common causes of acute muscle tear are as follows –

  • Poor flexibility of the muscles
  • Over exercising or hard labor
  • Fatigue
  • Wrong body posture.

Sometimes, sportsmen don’t warm up sufficiently before a game where muscles are used intensively like in football or tennis, which leads to muscle tear.

Some unintentional activities, as mentioned below frequently cause muscle tear –

  • Slip
  • Sudden fall from a height
  • Jumping with the help of body weight or throwing any weighty object
  • Lifting any heavy article
  • Sudden movement while in awkward position.

People often complain of muscle strain while walking on an uneven footpath or catching a bus or train in hurry. Certain weather conditions may lead to muscle tear, as it happens during colder seasons when muscles become very stiff or during very hot seasons when body loses water and minerals making the muscles weak and tender.

Chronic cases of muscle tear are mostly noticed in sportspeople who are involved in games like football, cricket, weight lifting, cycling, rowing, baseball etc. Employees working in offices sitting in a wrong posture or students who need to use tables and chairs for prolonged hours are often diagnosed with chronic muscle tear or strain.

Treatment for Muscle Tear

Person with muscle tear should visit a doctor if home remedies for muscle tear are not providing him or her any remarkable respite even after 24 hours. People often misjudge the intensity of damage and neglect the problem with a hope that it will be remedied naturally. In fact, the pain or other symptoms go on disturbing normal activities over the months and even years. If not taken care of in time, muscle tear or strain can create permanent damage to the muscle and ligaments. So, people are always 1advised to take the issue to an expert in this field.

  • First Aid for Muscle Tear: First aid has a very important role in the treatment and recovery of muscle tear. Experts opine that, if the affected muscles are provided first aid within 15 minutes of occurrence of any accident or injury, many smaller muscle tear issues are recovered within a few days. Here are some commonly advised first aid treatments or home remedies for muscle tear –
    • Application of ice immediately after an injury leading to muscle tear minimizes swelling and decreases pain to a great extent.
    • Sufficient rest is to be given to the affected muscle. It will help the muscular tissues to treat the damaged cells with their own auto-immune system. However, prolonged rest may weaken the muscles. So, bodily movements should be started soon without giving much tension to the muscles.
    • Treatment for muscle tear involving Compression may be needed if the swelling is too visible. Compression with the help of elastic bandage is always the best way to lessen the swelling.
    • Whenever possible, the affected muscle should be elevated at the level of heart for a few minutes. It will provide strength to the muscle and ease the blood circulation.
  • Other Useful Self-care Methods: Apart from first aid, there are some other home remedies to get rid of minor muscle tears. These are:
    • Over the counter medicines such as ibuprofen and naproxen are very useful to mitigate primary pain and inflammation associated with muscle tear, so those can be used at the beginning along with first aid.
    • Hot pack treatment for muscle tear at least 5 times a day helps to ease blood circulation and muscular movements.
    • Proper rest and care while moving or working is necessary, but at the same time muscles should be used normally after three days of getting an injury in the event of minor muscle tear. Stretching up the muscles as much as possible will be very beneficial, nut this has to be done only in the recovery phase.
  • Medical Treatment for Muscle Tear: If home remedies for muscle tear are not working effectively, or the pain is unbearable, it is practicable to visit an expert. There are certain procedure doctors follow while investigating the extent of damage caused to the muscle. Certain pathological and imaging tests like X-ray and MRI are done followed by certain treatment procedure including physiotherapy, medications and rest.

Recovery Period of Muscle Tear

Recovery from muscle tear or strain completely depends on the level of injury. In case of Grade 1 type of muscle tear, it takes 1-7 days to recover; in case of Grade 2 type of muscle tear patients take a few weeks to a few months to recover and they may need medical care from an expert; whereas, in case of Grade 3 type of muscle tear patients may need to undergo regular physiotherapy for some months or in some cases they may need to be operated for ruptured muscles and tendons and recovery period in this case will be very long.


Muscle tear shouldn’t be taken lightly. If pain or swelling associated with muscle tear is not receding even after trying all possible kinds of home remedies, it is better to take medical advice for the same. In some situations, recovery may take much time with prolonged treatment including continuous physiotherapy, but patients and their families need to be patient enough to follow doctor’s advice very strictly. People in general are also needed to be a bit cautious while accomplishing daily activities. People who perform exercises and sportspeople should practice under expert supervision so that muscles don’t get unexpected pressures. As a whole, muscle tears are quite common occurrences; medical science has come up with many treatment procedures and guidelines which can help to recover from muscle tear or muscle stain quickly.


Also Read:

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 5, 2019

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