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A muscle strain, or pulled muscle, occurs when your muscle is overstretched or torn. This usually occurs as a result of fatigue , overuse, or improper use of a muscle. Strains can happen in any muscle, but they’re most common in your lower back, neck, shoulder, and hamstring, which is the muscle behind your thigh.
These strains can cause pain and may limit movement within the affected muscle group. Mild to moderate strains can be successfully treated at home with ice, heat, and anti-inflammatory medications . Severe strains or tears may require medical treatment.
Causes of muscle strains
An acute muscle strain is when your muscle tears suddenly and unexpectedly. Such tears can occur either from injuries or trauma. This can be due to:
- not warming up properly before physical activity
- poor flexibility
- poor conditioning
- overexertion and fatigue
There’s a misconception that only rigorous exercises and workouts of high intensity cause muscle strains. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine , muscle strains can even occur from walking.
An acute strain can happen when you:
- slip or lose your footing
- throw something
- lift something heavy
- lift something while in you’re in an awkward position
Acute muscle strains are also more common in cold weather. This is because muscles are stiffer in lower temperatures. It’s important to take extra time to warm up in these conditions to prevent strains.
Chronic muscle strains are the result of repetitive movement. This can be due to:
- sports like rowing, tennis, golf, or baseball
- holding your back or neck in an awkward position for long periods of time, such as when you work at a desk
- poor posture