Maybe your swing was off or your footing bad, but suddenly you feel pain and you're gripping your arm or using your 9 iron as a walking cane. You pulled a muscle. A pulled muscle occurs when the muscle is strained, causing microscopic tears or stretching of the muscle fibers. Healing a pulled muscle requires concentrated focus on protecting the muscle while the body heals itself. For minor pulled muscles, the standard medical treatment coupled with minimal use of anti-inflammatory medication often allow for quick healing.
Difficulty: Moderately Challenging
Discontinue any activity that puts stress on the injured muscle. Stop your round of golf, cease lifting heavy boxes or carrying heavy objects. Pain indicates an injury that requires immediate rest. Continued use of a pulled muscle only furthers the injury and delays recovery.
Evaluate the severity of the pulled muscle by assessing your range of motion. Inability to move in any direction without pain requires a visit to a doctor to determine the extent of the pulled muscle. If you can move your leg, arm, shoulder or back somewhat, typical home remedies should help quickly alleviate discomfort.
Apply an ice pack to the injured muscle for 20 minutes every two hours. Place a towel or cloth between your skin and the ice pack. Ice helps reduce swelling but should never be used for longer than 20 minutes at a time due to danger of frostbite. Switch to alternating ice packs and heat packs after three days. Heat might soothe any pain you're feeling after these early days.
Elevate the injured area. Keep the pulled muscle raised above your heart level to reduce swelling and encourage the body to release and absorb fluid buildup. Some suggestions include tucking a pillow under an injured leg or arm, propping a foot on the sofa arm rest or resting your leg along the back of the sofa.
Apply a compression bandage to the muscle to reduce swelling. Elastic bandages work well on most pulled muscle injuries as long as you wrap your injury correctly. Never pull the bandage too tightly to constrict circulation. Compression and elevation work in conjunction to help with muscle recovery by limiting swelling and range of motion to promote healing.
Massage the injured muscle gently to stimulate circulation and promote healing. According to the National Institute for Massotherapy, massage can reduce stress and tension involved with pulled muscle injuries and can release tension and stiffness. Don't press too hard into the injured muscle to prevent increasing pain.
Pour two cups of Epsom salts into a warm bath and soak for a 15 minutes. Epsom salts will help relax the larger muscles of your back, hamstrings and quadriceps. Use one-quarter to one-half cup of Epsom salts in a small basin to soak ankle or wrist injuries.
Begin light stretches when you can apply pressure to the muscle without pain. If you've chosen to take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, make sure the pills aren't masking the pain. Start with regular light stretching and graduate to strengthening activities before returning to a scaled down-version of your regular exercise routine or sport.
Tips & Warnings
Do not put heat on the injury before 72 hours have gone by.