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Muscle Strain

Too much tension or stress can cause a muscle strain, which damages the internal structure of the muscle, especially the hamstrings, groin, back and calf.

muscles of the back

Back Muscles

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Factors that increase your chances of getting a muscle strain include:

  • Athletic activities, especially those with running, lifting, and jumping
  • Tight muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Overexertion
  • Cold weather

Proper stretching of cold and injured muscles and rest can help you avoid straining your muscles. 

Strained Muscle Symptoms

Symptoms depend on how you strained the muscle.

Athletic or Physical Activity Strain

You feel immediate soreness or pain in the affected muscle. If you try to use that muscle, it hurts even more. The area becomes tender and swollen. In the most severe cases, there may be a skin bruise because of bleeding underneath. Moving the nearby joints causes pain. Running and lifting commonly cause this type of muscle strain.

Stress Strain

When you do an activity that your body is not used to doing, the muscles are not in shape for that kind of activity. You may not feel pain during the activity, but the next day a muscle or set of muscles may be very sore. The muscle will be tender, and using it causes pain or discomfort.

Your doctor can use MRI, CT and ultrasound scans to determine your type of muscle strain.


Treatment usually includes:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression and elevation
  • Pain medication
  • Heat
  • Stretching
  • Strengthening

For prevention and treatment details, follow your doctor's instructions.


Call 434.243.3675.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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