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How to Speed Up Muscle Strain Recovery: 10 Expert Tips

Nothing slows down your workout schedule like an injury. But if you hurt yourself when exercising, giving yourself the proper time to heal and recover is crucial to getting back on track. Muscle strains (also called pulled muscles) are among the most common exercise-related injuries. They can happen to anyone, regardless of age or fitness level.

At Chris Protein, we work with clients daily who often want to know how to prevent a muscle strain and if they get one — how to heal a pulled muscle fast. In this article, we’ll provide you with information on how to speed up muscle strain recovery, recognize a strained muscle, and prevent strained muscles from happening in the first place. 

What is a Strained Muscle?

Muscle strains happen when your muscle gets overstretched or torn. Certain body parts — like your biceps, hamstrings, and calves — are more prone to exercise-related strains than others, but you can strain any muscle if you push it too hard. 

There are varying degrees of muscle strains. Mild strains involve just a few stretched muscle fibers. Moderate strains occur when you overstretch or tear several muscle fibers. Severe strains happen when a muscle tears all the way through. These strains are very painful and usually require longer healing periods.

Woman wearing athletic attire sitting down holding her calf muscle and wincing in pain

Causes of Muscle Strain

In subsequent sections, we will go over how to heal a muscle strain (fast). However, ideally, you never suffer one in the first place. Understanding what causes muscle strains and why you keep getting injured will help you avoid common mistakes leading to this type of injury. Below are the top causes of muscle strains. 

  • Repeat motion: Doing the same motion repeatedly, whether during a workout or daily tasks, can lead to muscle strain. 

  • Skipping the warm-up: A session with any of our trainers will always begin with a warm-up because it’s so beneficial to protecting your body. Warming up promotes blood flow and increases muscle temperature, which reduces the risk of injury. 

  • Quick-start exercises: This is what we call high-intensity exercises done in short bursts, like burpees, lunges, and jumping jacks. Quick-start exercises can increase the risk of muscle strains because they put a lot of stress on just one or two muscles or joints.

  • Failing to stretch: When you forgo stretching, the muscle fibers are tight and more prone to injury. If you don’t learn proper stretching techniques, you’ll need to know how to recover from overstretching next, and we’d like to help you avoid that. One of our trainers can teach you simple, effective stretches that prepare your muscles for rigorous activity.

  • Improper form: Using proper form when exercising ensures you don’t put too much stress on any one part of your body. Even a slight misalignment can lead to injury, which is why it’s crucial to learn safe workout techniques.

  • Lifting something too heavy: Weightlifting injuries are one of the more common types of workout injuries. When it comes to weightlifting, moving up the weight scale at a gradual pace can help prevent strains.

How to Know You Have a Strained Muscle

If you notice any signs of a strained muscle, pause your regular workout routine until you’ve had time to heal. Trying to push through the pain and ignoring the signs could make your injury worse and set you back even more. Below are typical signs of a strained muscle. 

  • Soreness

  • Limited range of motion

  • Spasms

  • Swelling

  • Bruising

  • Divots between the torn fibers

Our trainers can teach you how to heal a strained muscle fast in mild to moderate cases. However, severe cases (when a total muscle tear has occurred) require the help of a medical professional. Only a doctor is qualified to discuss how to heal a torn muscle. Fast remedies, like those covered for mild to moderate cases, aren’t always appropriate for severe cases. Speak to your physician if you experience any of the following:

  • You are unable to walk

  • You heard a popping sound at the time of the injury (this signals a fully torn muscle)

  • You have a fever

  • You are in extreme pain

10 Tips on How to Speed Up Muscle Strain Recovery

Refraining from your workouts can be a major disappointment. Luckily, there are things you can do to heal muscle strain fast and resume your usual activity soon. Bear in mind that the severity of the injury dictates the recovery length. Mild to moderate injuries can often be overcome within two to six weeks, while more serious ones can take several months to recover. Fortunately, there are strategies for speeding up the recovery process, which we have highlighted for you below.

1. Protect the Injury

Depending on the nature and location of the injury, you might need an assistive device like a crutch, brace, or sling. These devices hold the injured muscle in place (allowing it to rest fully) to help heal acute injuries.

2. Rest the Injury

Sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing at all. That can be difficult for our more active clients wondering how to speed up muscle strain recovery. In back injury cases in particular, failing to rest can worsen the injury, making it nearly impossible to carry out everyday tasks. 

3. Alternate Ice and Heat

Extreme temperatures are your friend when it comes to healing a strained muscle. For the first two to three days following the incident, apply a cold compress to the injury site for 20 minutes at a time. The cold will help reduce swelling. Be sure to wrap your ice pack in cloth so the ice doesn’t make direct contact with the skin, which can cause blisters. 

After two days of using a cold compress, you can start incorporating a hot compress. Heat boosts blood flow, promotes flexibility, and can reduce pain. Do not start applying heat for at least 48 hours following your injury. Applying it too soon can increase swelling.

4. Apply Compression

You can also use compression badges to reduce swelling. Just be careful about how tight you wrap them throughout the healing process. You can wear tighter bandages to reduce swelling at the beginning of your recovery. However, loosen them over time to prevent pressure buildup inside the muscle.

5. Elevate the Injured Muscle

Elevate your injured body part whenever you’re applying ice to it. Elevating your injured muscle helps to lower blood pressure, reducing intramuscular bleeding. It also promotes drainage to reduce the risk of edema (fluid trapped in the muscle tissues). 

6. Hydrate

Staying hydrated isn’t just important during workouts — it’s integral to injury recovery. Hydration reduces inflammation and swelling. Plus, dehydration can make muscle pain worse as well as delay healing. Be sure to drink plenty of water and electrolyte-rich beverages when recovering from an injury. 

7. Eat Nutritious Foods

The right diet can help accelerate your healing process. Foods high in protein can boost cell repair, so incorporate foods like chicken, fish, low-skim dairy, and lean beef cuts into your meals. Foods rich in antioxidants are also vital to injury recovery because antioxidants can reduce muscle soreness. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, so add plenty of produce to your plate during recovery.

8. Sleep

Sleep is widely recognized as the magical cure for various ailments, including exercise injuries. Sleep regulates important hormonal and immune responses involved in injury recovery. One of the best things you can do if you're wondering how to speed up muscle strain recovery is clock some extra Zzzs.

9. Visit a Physical Therapist

Depending on the severity of your injury, you might benefit from working with a physical therapist. PTs can safely guide you through exercises that rebuild damaged muscles, without overdoing it. Plus, they can give you tips on gentle exercises to do at home to keep your body active. Sometimes, the fastest way to heal muscle strain depends on the nature of the injury, and only a trained professional can advise you on the proper regimen.

10. Anti-Inflammatory Medication

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help alleviate pain from a strained muscle, as well as reduce swelling. However, it’s recommended to wait two to three days following your injury to begin NSAIDs because this class of medication increases the risk of internal bleeding, and you could be suffering intermuscular hematomas following an injury. It’s always best to consult your physician when you’re unsure about over-the-counter medications. 

X-ray of a human shoulder with red color to express muscle strain or injury

How to Prevent Muscle Strain

The fastest way to heal a pulled muscle is to…wait for it…never get one in the first place. We recognize that’s easier said than done, but our goal at Chris Protein is to educate our clients on good habits that lead to fewer injuries over time. 

One of the most common causes of muscle strain is improper form when exercising. That’s why it’s important to work with a trainer who can ensure you’re working out correctly. Whether you’re new to fitness or looking to level up, it would be our pleasure to be your go-to destination for a personal trainer in Austin. You’ll be able to work towards fitness goals in a supportive environment under the guidance of trained experts who can ensure your safety and progress. 

Protect Your Muscles with Chris Protein Training

Now that you understand why strained muscles happen and how to prevent them, we hope you can avoid these painful injuries. Still, even life-long fitness enthusiasts can suffer from strained muscles. It’s beneficial to athletes of all levels to work with a trainer who can guide you through warm-up routines, stretches, and proper form to ensure you don’t injure yourself. Check out our blog for expert tips, insights, and inspirational client spotlights on personal training, fitness, and health.

If you’re looking for one-on-one personal training in Austin, our experienced and passionate trainers are ready to work with you. They’ll customize a workout plan that complements your goals. Whether you want to learn how to build abs, increase your stamina, or achieve something else in the fitness realm, one of our encouraging and professional trainers will help you feel great in your body. Contact us and make your first personal training appointment today!

Group of personal trainers posing for a picture in black athletic clothing and white background


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