The Complete Guide to Muscle Strains and How To Treat Them

Man with muscle strain in low back and neck Mar4th 2022

A muscle strain can be very painful and debilitating. Understanding the cause of muscle strains, what the treatment is and how to prevent them from happening again is important. This guide from the team at OSR Physical Therapy will help you go from amateur to pro in no time.

Common Causes of Muscle Strains

Check out the four most common causes of muscle strains:

  • Not warming up properly before physical activity
    • Performing warm-up exercises before engaging in more intense physical activity literally “warms up” the muscles, making them more flexible. 
  • Poor mobility and flexibility
    • If you have poor mobility or flexibility, your muscles are tighter and become more susceptible to getting strained. 
  • Poor conditioning and lack of consistent activity
    • If you start exercising again after taking a hiatus, make sure you ease back into it. Your muscles, which aren’t used to certain movements, will strain more easily if you push them too hard at first. 
  • Overexertion and fatigue
    • Muscles experience soreness and weakening when you overexert yourself or become fatigued, making them more likely to strain during continued exercise. 

How To Know if You Pulled or Strained a Back Muscle 

These six signs will tell you if you have a muscle pull or strain in either the upper or lower back

  • Local swelling around the injured area
  • Muscle spasms
  • Intense and/or dull pain
  • Pain with specific movements (i.e. moving the head or neck) 
  • Tightness or stiffness in the muscle
  • Pain relief in resting positions

What Are the Symptoms of a Pulled or Strained Neck Muscle?

Beyond suffering from a stiff neck, experiencing any of the following four symptoms might mean that you have a muscle strain in the neck. 

  • Pain in the back of the neck that worsens with movement
  • Pain that peaks a day or so after injury, rather than immediately
  • Headache in the back of the head

5 Effective Ways to Treat Muscle Strains

  1. Rest

One of the best muscle strain treatments is rest. Resting gives a strained muscle adequate time to heal before you engage in further physical activity. 

  1. Apply ice

Applying ice to a strained muscle for 20 to 30 minutes reduces swelling and numbs any pain you have. 

  1. Take an anti-inflammatory medication 

This will reduce uncomfortable pain and swelling. 

  1. Perform stretches and light exercises to promote blood flow

Here are a few stretches and light muscle strain physical exercises that can help promote blood flow: 

  • Downward dog
  • Lunge 
  • Jogging 
  1. Attend Physical Therapy

If you still experience pain after trying the four treatment methods listed above, try seeing a physical therapist. Physical therapy exercises help stretch out and strengthen the strained muscle to help it return to full function. 

The Best Ways To Prevent Muscle Strains

Here are six simple ways to prevent muscle strains. 

  • Warm-up before exercising 
  • Stretch your muscles daily
  • Don’t overexert yourself 
  • Eat high-potassium foods before exercising

Find Muscle Relief at OSR Physical Therapy

As a family-owned and operated outpatient physical therapy clinic, OSR Physical Therapy is committed to providing personalized care that will improve your quality of life. With exceptional care and superior customer service, our physical therapists help patients in Phoenix, Peoria, Scottsdale, Moon Valley, Gilbert, Sun City, Anthem, and Glendale return to normal activities feeling stronger than ever before. 

If you’re ready to experience lasting muscle relief, request an appointment at OSR Physical Therapy today.