A pulled muscle is technically called a strained muscle and occurs when the fibers of a muscle are torn. Causes of pulled muscles are strenuous activity or an underlying muscle imbalance where one muscle is inappropriately stronger than another. Pulled muscles are the most common injury sustained by athletes.
There are three grades of muscle strains. Grade I is mild and heals quickly. Grade II is more painful with restricted movement. Grade III is the most severe and painful.
Symptoms of a pulled muscle include pain at the site of injury and swelling. More severe grades can limit movement and cause muscle spasms and bruising.
Depending on the grade, pulled muscles can take one to eight weeks to heal.
For the first 72 hours, apply ice, use elevation and, in consultation with a doctor, take anti-inflammatory medication. After 72 hours, use hot packs to bring blood into the muscle and provide nourishment, which accelerates healing. Massage or physical therapy can hasten the healing process.
Avoid overexertion of strained muscles during healing, as it can prolong the injury or cause permanent damage. See a doctor for severely strained muscles, as they may require surgery or physical therapy.
The hamstring, quadriceps, calf and inner thigh muscles are pulled the most often.