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Muscle Injuries


Muscle strains occur when muscle fibres tear or are injured as a result of a sudden contraction. You may experience sharp localised pain, bruises and stiffness over the muscle.


What is a muscle?

A muscle is a specialised soft tissue which have the ability to contract and relax, resulting in joint movement

What is a muscle pull or strain?

  • When there is a sudden contraction to a tightened muscle, some of the soft tissue fibres may tear and get injured
  • There is a feeling of sharp pulling, similar to a band snapping, followed by sharp pain and difficulty using that muscle
  • Muscle strains typically occur in muscles that are capable of providing explosive movements, common injury sites are:
    • Quadriceps (front thigh)

    • Iliopsoas (front hip)
    • Hamstrings (back thigh)
    • Calf

What are the common causes?

  • Muscle tightness
  • Muscle fatigue and weakness
  • Sudden increase in load
  • Overstretching
  • Repetitive strain

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Sharp localised pain, sometimes even pain at rest
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Bruises
  • Stiffness
  • Inability to contract the muscle because of pain

What are the risk factors?

  • History of muscle strain
    • People with history of muscle strain are more prone to have recurrent muscle strain
  • Return to sports too early
    • If your injured muscle does not have enough time for proper healing, you are prone to having recurrent muscle strains because the newly formed muscle fibres are not strong enough to withstand load
  • Muscle tightness
    • Tight muscles increase the chance of muscle strain
  • Muscle fatigue/weakness
    • Fatigued muscles have lesser shock absorption capacity, making them more prone to be injured

How can I prevent muscle injury?

  • Warm up adequately (3-5 mins)
    • Ensure that muscles are warmed up enough before ‘exploding’
    • Ensure that muscles can go through the entire range of movement that your sport requires of that muscle
  • Ensure ‘fit enough’
    • Train progressively to cope with the level of performance and maintain good muscle strength
    • Do not over-train
  • Stretch well before and after training
    • Hold each stretch for at least 30s, repeating 3-5 times to ensure flexibility

What can I do to help myself?

Different phases of muscle injury require different types of management:

Acute phase (injury time - 3 days) Subacute phase (1-3 week post injury)
Reduce swelling by applying ice to the injured area for 15-20mins, every 2-3 hours Gently start to move the joint into full range, i.e. fully straighten and bend
Relative rest, i.e. do not continue with your training or use the muscle excessively Gently stretch the injured muscle
If needed, use a crutch to allow the injured area to rest Gentle massage may be applied
DO NOT APPLY HEAT OR MASSAGE THE AREA! Cross train without using that body part to maintain cardiovascular fitness


1. Can I massage my injured muscle?

  • You may start massaging, depending on the stage of the injury.
  • You should not massage your injured muscle when it is still in the acute phase (first week after injury). At this stage, your injured muscle still have inflammation. Massage may cause more pain and damage during the acute phase.
  • During subacute or chronic phase, when the pain and swelling has subsided, you can start gentle massage to increase the elasticity of the muscle fibres.

2. Should I use ice pack or hot pack for my painful muscle?

  • In the acute phase, you should apply ice packs to control swelling and inflammation when your muscle is painful, swollen and warm.
  • In subacute and chronic phases, you can apply a hot pack to your injured muscle to reduce pain.
  • Seek your physiotherapist’s advice if in doubt, or if the pain still persists for more than 3 weeks.


- Last updated 1 Jul 2011,4:59 pm

The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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