Muscle Strain in the Extremities

A muscle strain is a stretching and tearing of muscle fibers. This causes pain, especially when you move that muscle. There may also be some swelling and bruising.

Home care

  • Keep the hurt area raised above heart level to reduce pain and swelling. This is especially important during the first 48 hours.

  • Apply an ice pack over the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every 3 to 6 hours. You should do this for the first 24 to 48 hours. You can make an ice pack by filling a plastic bag that seals at the top with ice cubes and then wrapping it with a thin towel. Be careful not to injure your skin with the ice treatments. Ice should never be applied directly to skin. Continue the use of ice packs for relief of pain and swelling as needed. After 48 to 72 hours, or as directed by your healthcare provider, apply heat (warm shower or warm bath) for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day. Or you can switch between ice and heat.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. If you have long-term (chronic) liver or kidney disease, ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, or take a blood thinner, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

  • For leg strains: If crutches have been advised, don’t put full weight on the hurt leg until you can do so without pain. You can return to sports when you're able to hop and run on the injured leg without pain.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider as advised.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • The toes of the injured leg become swollen, cold, blue, numb, or tingly

  • Pain or swelling increases

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