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Your Ultimate Guide to Rehabbing a Strained Muscle

It might be a single event or an injury from repeated use. Either way, muscle strains, mild or severe, are common and virtually everyone suffers occasionally. When you’re affected, you want to get past the pain and back to 100% capacity as fast as you can, so we’ve created this guide to help you rehab a strained muscle. 

At 360 Orthopedics, we can help. Moderate to severe strains may need more care than you can administer yourself at home. We’re sports medicine specialists, so we’re familiar with all levels of strain. We’re ready to diagnose and treat those muscle issues you can’t clear up at home. Here’s what you need to know to get your muscle rehab happening. 

Strain or sprain?

With only a one-letter difference, strains and sprains are often interchanged and confused. A sprain involves ligaments, the tissue that connects bone to bone. When ligaments are overstretched, you have a sprain. Strains involve muscles and/or tendons, the connective tissue that joins muscle to bone. While treatments are sometimes similar, today we’re focusing on strains. 

Signs of muscle strain

The severity and type of injury changes the symptoms you experience. Some of the most common signs of muscle strain include: 

The most common locations for muscle strains are the neck, shoulders, lower back, and hamstrings. 

Muscle strain first-aid

Mild strains can be treated at home using the RICE protocol. RICE is a mnemonic to help you remember the components of caring for many soft tissue injuries. 


Discontinue the activity that caused the strain and avoid using the affected muscle in ways that increase the pain. In general, take it easy for a day or two after the injury. 


Cold compresses and ice packs reduce swelling and help to manage pain. When possible, ice the muscle for 15 minutes, no more than once an hour. 


Use an elastic bandage to slightly compress the muscle. This helps reduce swelling and reminds you of the injury. It may also provide added support for a weak muscle. Don’t wrap the injury so tightly that it interferes with blood flow. 


If possible, raise the affected muscle above the level of your heart when you can. This encourages drainage to reduce swelling. 

In addition to the RICE steps, taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can control pain while contributing to reduced inflammation. Adding heat after the first few days may often help your recovery. 

Seeking medical attention

When home care fails to produce improvement in a day or two, it’s time to visit 360 Orthopedics. If you experience pain that’s hard to tolerate or sensations like numbness or tingling, visit us regardless of how long you’ve been treating the injury. 

Once you receive a diagnosis about the type and severity of your muscle strain, we will help you with a rehab plan. This includes tips for continued home care as well as recommended exercises to help you recover use of the muscle without causing further injury. We’ll recommend treatments that could help your recovery, including physical and/or occupational therapy and regenerative medicine

Reach out to 360 Orthopedics for the care you need to recover from a muscle strain. You can make an appointment with our nearest location by calling the office directly or through our online booking link. Arrange your visit today.

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