Muscle strains range in severity from a mild tear to a more severe injury requiring surgery. The recovery time for muscle tears varies based on the injury. Recovery for torn muscles also varies depending on which muscle is damaged, and the care the tear receives following the injury.
Severity of Tears & Pulls
A torn muscle is a tear in the muscle fibers of the tendons. This injury often damages blood vessels and causes bruising. In bad tears, the bruising is deep and extensive. Severe tears are accompanied by lack of muscle function in the affected area.
Muscle strains are diagnosed based on severity. The greater the number of fibers that are torn, the more severe the diagnosis of the injury. A first degree strain is mild and damages a few muscle fibers. This is the fastest to heal. A second degree strain damages more fibers. A third degree strain is a complete rupture of the muscle and may require surgery.
Types of Tears
Two types of tears exist. Distraction ruptures occur when the demands made of the muscle are too great for its strength and are often the result of a quick movement or change of direction. The second type—compression tears—are the result of direct impact, such as a collision. This force can cause bruising, tearing or severe muscle spasms.
For first and second degree tears and sprains, expect recovery to take from 2 to 6 weeks if the muscle is treated quickly after the injury. Second-degree tears can take longer to heal based on severity.
For more serious third-degree tears of muscles like biceps and hamstrings, complete recovery can take up to 6 months after surgery.
To expedite your recovery, it’s essential to stop exercising as soon as the injury occurs. Begin treatment immediately. Trying to power through the pain will only delay the recovery process.
Sports doctors advise completely resting the area. If you’ve torn a muscle in your lower body and the injury is severe, you’ll be advised to use crutches or a splint to protect the area from additional damage. If the tear is bad, physical therapy will be part of the recovery process.
Likelihood of a Muscle Tear
If you've torn a muscle in the past, you're susceptible to relive that painful experience. By doing too much too soon or having poor overall conditioning, you increase your risk for tearing a muscle. Factors that can increase your likelihood of a strain or severe tear include tightness in any of your muscles, imbalance of the muscle, poor muscular conditioning and overall weakness, lack of proper warmup, and muscle fatigue caused by exercise or poor conditioning.