How to Treat a Pulled Muscle

pulled muscle

With a bigger focus on raising a healthier generation, our kids are more active than they’ve ever been. That’s a wonderful thing, but a lot can happen during PE, soccer, gymnastics, or Taekwondo. Overexertion, failure to stretch, or a misstep can strain a muscle and leave your child sore or in pain. But how do you treat a pulled muscle? Let’s start by looking at what a pulled muscle is.

What Does It Mean When You Have a “Pulled Muscle?”

A pulled muscle means your muscle has been strained, overstretched, or torn, which can happen from incorrect positioning, overuse, improper use, poor posture, or fatigue. Which muscles are more likely to be pulled or strained? Any muscle can be strained but it happens more frequently to the neck, lower back, shoulders, and hamstrings. When you pull a muscle, you might be limited in how much you can move it. You’ve probably experienced this before when you’ve had a stiff neck and you could only turn your neck to a certain degree. This limited range of motion indicates you probably pulled a muscle.

How Do You Treat a Pulled Muscle?

Just as there’s the B.R.A.T. diet approach to treating diarrhea and vomiting, there is the R.I.C.E. approach for strained muscles. It’s really simple:


Let your muscle rest by limiting how much you use it for a few days. Continue to let it rest if you feel more pain when you use it. To facilitate the healing process, start using the muscle slowly and carefully, as long as it doesn’t cause you pain. Moving the muscle after a couple of days will prevent it from becoming too weak.


Wrap some ice in a towel or get an ice pack and Immediately apply it to the injured muscle to reduce swelling. Ice your muscle for about 20 minutes at a time and repeat this process every hour on the day of injury. Over the next several days, continue to apply ice to the muscle but only every four hours or so.


Wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage until swelling comes down, but not too tightly.


Keep your injured muscle raised above your heart whenever you can.

Additional Tips:

  • You can try some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help manage the pain and keep swelling down.
  • After three days, apply heat to the muscle several times a day. This will help bring blood circulation to the area for healing.
  • If your muscle strain is severe, you may need medical attention. Physical therapy may also be recommended.

How Do You Prevent a Pulled Muscle?

Train your kids to stretch and warm up before they begin practice, a game, or exercising. Stretching increases the blood flow to muscles and significantly decreases the risk of injury. Regular exercise or activity also helps prevent muscle strains.

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