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Ask the PT – Muscle tears/strains


I was helping my grandma move furniture out of the attic and I think I might of strained or tore some muscles in my arms. What is the difference between a strain and a tear, and how should I go about treating this (besides seeing a doctor). Is physical therapy necessary for these types of injuries, even if they are minor?


Adam H.

Dear Adam,

Thanks for getting in contact with us and I am sorry that you injured yourself, but at least you were helping out your grandmother, which is always a good thing to do! I will explain the differences between a muscle tears and strains, and will also give you advice on seeking treatment. To answer your question (in brief), physical therapy is a great option for someone with a muscle tear or strain, especially if you are an athlete or weekend-warrior type and want to get back to your activities as soon as possible.

A muscle strain, or pulled muscle, is when the fibers of the muscle are overstretched or torn. Muscle strains occur as a result of improper use or overuse during a strenuous activity. A strain differs from a sprain in that the latter refers to the same injury involving the ligaments. Strains can cause bleeding or bruising due to the damage of small blood vessels in the muscle, and along with pain and swelling in the area, you may not be able to use the muscle at all if the tear is severe.

If the strain is mild or moderate, at-home remedies can be used for treatment at home. Be sure to follow the R.I.C.E. Method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) and take anti-inflammatory drugs if you are experiencing any pain. It is best to avoid any physical activity as you can re-injure the strain and make the tear worse. It may be best to start light stretching after a few days once the pain has subsided in order to prevent stiffness or weakness of the affected area.

Medical attention and physical therapy may be required for more severe strains or tears. A doctor or physical therapist will evaluate and diagnose the strain. Physical therapy will help to strengthen the muscle and restore movement, and a doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications or pain relievers in order to make you feel more at ease. It is best to follow the directions of a medical professional before resuming any strenuous activities. Remember to always stretch before any physical activity and keep hydrated in order to prevent a strain or tear from happening again!

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