A muscle strain is, in addition to the muscle hardening, a typical and common sports injury. Just like the hamstring, muscle strain is one of the closed muscle injuries because only the muscle is affected. Externally, however, nothing is to be recognized, which would suggest a strain.

What is a muscle strain?

Especially athletes know them very well: the muscle strain. In this injury, the skin remains intact, so it is a closed muscle injury (see also sports injuries). Depending on which body parts are loaded, the strain can occur in each muscle group.

While runners are more prone to muscle strain in the calf and thigh muscles, basketball players will be particularly troubled with the upper arm or shoulder muscles. The symptoms are mainly spasmodic pain in the affected part of the body. Depending on the severity of the injury, there may be a restriction of movement. Nevertheless, muscle strain is in principle not an actual injury to the muscle, instead it hardens the muscle, as the muscle tone is disturbed.


A muscle strain, unlike other sports injuries, is not caused by damage from the outside, but has its causes in the disturbance of muscle function. Excessive stress over a long period of time or due to a very rapid change of load can lead to a disturbance of the muscle tension, which leads to a hardening of the respective muscle.

The result is spasmodic pain, as the muscle can not relax as usual. In addition to high loads, there are other risk factors that promote the development of muscle strain. Especially people whose muscles are weakened due to lack of exercise tend to be tense when the muscles suddenly become more stressed.

There is also a risk if you do not warm up sufficiently before exercising to stretch the muscles and thus increase the load capacity. Often affected are people who have too little fluid and electrolytes in the body or are poorly nourished. Illnesses, such as colds, weaken the muscles and can therefore pose an additional risk of muscle strain.

Symptoms, complaints & signs

In a muscle strain, at first mild symptoms such as a feeling of tightness or a slight pulling in the affected muscle occur. Most of the tissue is hardened, but this does not limit the ability to move. Often sufferers try to relieve these tensions through massages or moderate sports.

Over the next few days, there are drawing pains that slowly become stronger and eventually develop into cramping symptoms. Subsequently, the affected limb can no longer be moved painlessly. Externally, a muscle strain can only be recognized by the described hardening of the muscles. Bleeding or effusions usually do not occur.

If the exercise is interrupted and the strain treated quickly, the complaints resolve within four to six days again. Then you can start again with moderate training. However, if the pulled muscle continues to be heavily loaded, the strain also increases.

Then it can come under certain circumstances to a muscle fiber tear, which is connected with further complications. Even a wrong treatment - such as too intensive massages - can aggravate the symptoms. Then the pain can spread to the surrounding areas, and in the worst case, a chronic pain syndrome develops.


Unlike other sports injuries, muscle strain typically develops gradually, while a torn muscle fiber suddenly appears after a wrong move.

The course of a strain is mostly similar. The overstretching of the muscle causes a strong contraction, which in turn leads to hardening.

Depending on how the healing process is, the duration of the strain can also vary. As a rule, the pain subsides after a few days, but complete healing usually takes up to three weeks.

The sooner the muscle strain is diagnosed and treated, the faster the affected person is free of symptoms again.


Of course, various complications can occur if there is a muscle strain. In most cases, a muscle strain caused by an overload or by external violence. The ligaments and tendons are stretched very strongly in such a case, so that it comes to a strain.

If the affected person continues to put a lot of strain on this part of the body, it can even lead to a muscle rupture. This complication must definitely be assessed by a doctor or treated accordingly. Otherwise, permanent consequential damage may occur, so that a full recovery is no longer possible.

In other cases, inflammation may also form in the muscle or on individual joints, leading to an abscess. An abscess is an excessive accumulation of pus requiring treatment. If the bacteria and viruses enter the bloodstream, an infection can occur. Nausea, vomiting, fever, limb and headache are the result.

Without medical treatment and without the use of appropriate medication, a serious infection can develop, so that a compulsory medical treatment should be resorted to. Only then can the above complications be avoided. However, those who decide for a timely treatment, can count on a speedy recovery and no serious complications.

When should you go to the doctor?

If sudden muscle movements, physical activity, or physical activity causes unexpected severe muscle pain, consult a doctor. After a fall or accident, a doctor's visit should also be made. Various tests and the use of imaging techniques must rule out serious injury or damage to the skeletal system.

If the affected person is no longer able to burden his body as usual, there will be a sudden decrease in physical fitness or severe pain that requires help. The self-determined intake of a pain medication is not recommended. There is a high risk of possible side effects, so consulting with a physician to avoid complications prior to the administration of medication is recommended.

Impairment of locomotion, disorders of general movement or a feeling of illness are to be presented to a doctor. A pulling sensation in the body during movement, a sensory or cognitive disorder as well as an irritability should be examined and treated. If it comes to a hypersensitivity to touch, a pain in rest or pressure, the clarification of a doctor is necessary. A muscle strain must also be distinguished by a doctor from a pinched nerve or existing damage to the nerve fibers. In these cases, permanent impairments threaten that should be avoided.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of a muscle strain is mainly done by the symptoms are mitigated and the malfunction of the muscle is corrected so that it can be relaxed again. In any case, the load on the muscle should be adjusted so that it can not lead to further injuries.

In addition, the respective muscle should be cooled with ice and stored high in order to keep the pain as low as possible. Depending on the severity of the strain, it is also often useful to create a pressure bandage and, ideally, to wrap it in combination with an ice pack.

However, care should be taken to avoid frostbite. It is also important that the compression bandage causes no additional pain or even circulatory problems because it was wrapped too tightly. In addition, care should be taken that the mobility is not restricted. Also, a cooling sports gel can provide relief in a muscle strain.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis of a muscle strain depends on the treatment of the person concerned with the muscle strain as well as the treatment. Ideally treated and protected distensions have a nearly 100% chance of complete healing. This is usually the case within days or weeks and depends very much on the affected muscle as well as on the health condition of the affected person.

Important for a good chance of an uncomplicated healing is the immediate interruption of muscle strain when the strain occurs. If a pulled muscle continues to be strained, it can cause a torn muscle, which is more painful and lengthy in the treatment.

For optimal prognosis, the affected muscle should be cooled and stored as fast as possible. This prevents penetration of body fluids and thus reduces swelling. In addition, the healing of the affected tissue is greatly facilitated.

In most cases, a muscle strain heals well within four to six days. However, a heavy load on the muscles should be avoided for a few days. However, light training in which the muscle group is stressed (ie also stretched) is recommended to restore normal mobility. It can happen that once dragged muscles are pulled again and again. Most of the time this is due to a chronic overload.


The aftercare of a muscle strain focuses on the review of the disease process by the responsible specialist. If the muscle strain does not heal or a quick healing is desired, also offer healing-promoting measures. Possible are about stimulation current treatments. In this form of therapy, the strained muscles are activated with electrical shocks, which should promote muscle healing.

Another alternative is enzyme preparations, which should contribute to the complete healing of the symptoms in the context of follow-up. Physical applications such as lymph drainage or cold treatments support the still weakened muscle in recovery. After the muscle strain has healed as far as possible, the doctor should be consulted again. The physician will scan the muscle and, if necessary, carry out diagnostic imaging.

For more severe muscle strain then physiotherapy or PNF are indicated. Active stretching is also part of the aftercare. For serious injuries surgery is necessary. After the surgery and the immobilization of the affected limb, which takes depending on the injury between three to five weeks, the doctor must be consulted for follow-up examination. After surgery, a muscle-tonic physiotherapy is often necessary to improve the mobility of the muscles. Aftercare is provided by the general practitioner, a sports physician or an orthopedist.

You can do that yourself

A muscle strain definitely requires a medical examination. Acute complaints are treated according to the PECH principle: break, ice, compression, high camps.

If a strain is suspected, the athletic activity should be stopped immediately. The affected muscle should not be further loaded and requires rapid cooling, for example in the form of a cooling spray or a cold, damp cover. Subsequently, an elastic pressure bandage must be created. Ideally, the ice envelope is integrated into the dressing to ensure long term cooling. Finally, the injured body must be stored up. The injury must then be examined again by a doctor and treated if necessary.

After the treatment, protection is indicated. The muscle may be charged again after two weeks at the earliest, insofar as the responsible physician gives his okay. If pain, swelling or other symptoms occur, it is best to consult the doctor.

A positive course is ensured, inter alia, by massages and other cooling measures. In consultation with the doctor, alternative remedies such as calendula ointment or herbal remedies may also be used. Even a warm bath or moderate physical exercise strengthen the cardiovascular system and thereby accelerate recovery.

  • cosmetics and wellness 
  • teething 
  • medicinal plants 
  • symptoms 
  • laboratory values 
  • Top