Man with Muscle Strain and Woman Helping

Understanding Muscle Strains

Muscle strains impact individuals of all ages and fitness levels. In fact, muscle injuries account for 10-55% of all sports injuries. 

This isn’t a huge surprise, since our muscles provide force for all of the movements our bodies perform. Most commonly, muscle strains tend to happen during rapid deceleration or acceleration. And maybe you’re experiencing a muscle strain right now. 

In this article, we hope to cover everything muscle strain related. We’ll dive into what causes muscle strains, the most common muscle strains, and how massage therapy and physiotherapy can help you heal.

What Causes Muscle Strains?

A muscle strain is when a muscle is pulled past it’s normal range of motion or limits. Usually, this happens when a muscle is exposed to a load or stressor that causes a powerful contraction which the body and structures were unprepared for. 

This typically happens:

  • During repetitive movement
  • Overstretching
  • Overuse combined with insufficient rest

Common situations where a muscle strain may arise include lifting heavy objects, improper lifting, skipping a warm-up, and poor posture (such as sitting at a desk all day).

Type of Muscle Strains

Generally, there are three types of muscle strains; Grade I, Grade II, and Grade III. These range in severity with Grade I being the least severe and Grade III being the most severe.

Grade I

Usually, there is very minimal pain with this type of muscle strain. Only a few muscle fibres are strained, and typically, you won’t have any reduced strength or flexibility.

Grade II

About half of the muscle fibres have ruptured. There is often pain and swelling, as well as a limited range of motion. Movement is often also limited by pain tolerance.

Grade III

All or almost all of the muscle fibres have ruptured. This means that the muscle is torn. Typical symptoms for this type of muscle strain include severe inflammation, significant discolouration, loss of function, and pain. In some cases, pain may not be present due to the initial shock. Also, in specific cases, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery to ensure a full recovery can take place.

Common Muscle Strains

Any muscle in the body can experience a muscle strain. However, there are areas that are more susceptible to a muscle strain than others. Some of the most common muscle strains happen in the quadriceps, hamstrings, groin, calves, biceps, and rotator cuff muscles.

How to Heal a Pulled Muscle

Your recovery will depend on the severity of your muscle strain. For mild strains, it may take only a couple of weeks to heal. Moderate strains often take 4-6 weeks. Yet, for Grade III strains, it can take 5 months or more.

Ideally, you want to ensure you allow adequate time for recovery. If you don’t, it’s more likely that the injury will reoccur or become a persistent problem.

At the initial onset of a pulled muscle, it’s crucial to rest the affected area and apply ice. Ice can help reduce pain and inflammation. When applying ice, make sure you use a cloth in between the ice pack and your skin to avoid damaging the skin tissue. Leave the ice on for 20 minutes at a time, with at least 45 minutes in between each application. 

Taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen, can help alleviate initial inflammation and pain. If the pain doesn’t improve within a few days or is severe, your doctor may recommend that you seek out the help of a physiotherapist and massage therapist. 

How Can Massage Therapy and Physiotherapy Help a Muscle Strain?

Massage therapy and physiotherapy are collaborative practices that work together to help you make a full recovery.

At your first visit, your physiotherapist will perform a thorough assessment of your injury and pain. They will take measurements of your strength and range of motion, providing a baseline to improve upon. 

From this assessment, your physiotherapist will create an appropriate treatment plan suited to you and your specific situation. At this time, your physio will also inform you regarding how often they would like to see you and how long they expect your recovery to take.

Your treatment plan will include:

  • Manual therapy
  • Prescribed exercises
  • Modalities, such as ultrasound, heat, ice, and taping
  • Education regarding how to prevent it in the future

Once the initial pain has subsided, your physiotherapist may recommend massage therapy in conjunction with other healing methods to further your recovery. 

Massage therapy can help release muscular tension and scar tissue. This can accelerate healing and recovery times. 

When an injury happens, such as a muscle strain, scar tissue can build at the affected site. This scar tissue can create various limitations in terms of flexibility, mobility, and pain. It may also lead to issues where other muscles or structures are forced to compensate to make up for any weaknesses. 

Massage therapy uses friction and other techniques to help release this scar tissue, allowing you to move your body freely. At the same time, massage increases blood flow and helps relax the muscles, decreasing stress and tension at the injured site.

Combined, massage therapy and physiotherapy can help you get back to your sport of choice or your regular activities, without fear of a recurring injury or more pain.

Book Your Physio or Massage Therapy Appointment Today

While a muscle strain might not sound like a big deal, avoiding getting the right treatment can result in months or years of pain down the road. A physiotherapist and massage therapist can guide you on the right track toward making a full recovery. 

If you’ve recently experienced a muscle strain, our team at Corydon Physiotherapy is here to help. Our compassionate and experienced team includes both physiotherapist and massage therapist — working together to help each patient in the best way possible.

Book your appointment today by calling us at (204) 925-0380, emailing us at, or by using our self-serve online booking system.

Lisa Gibson, MPT
Lisa Gibson, MPT

Lisa graduated from University of Alberta with a Masters in Physical Therapy in October 2013. She’s excited to move to Winnipeg after practicing in Edmonton since 2013. Since graduation, she has enjoyed working in both private clinics and hospitals and has taken additional training in women's health, muscle and joint problems, acupuncture. Lisa has also worked helping patients with a variety of heart conditions.

Lisa uses an evidence-based approach and utilizes movement analysis to guide treatment options. She encourages each patient to actively participate in rehabilitation by setting goals and creating a realistic rehabilitation program, including a home exercise program. Lisa also believes in utilizing manual therapy, joint mobilizations and injury/movement education to assist in the healing process.

In her spare time, Lisa enjoys spending time with her family, practicing yoga, enjoying the outdoors and playing/watching sports.

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