Pulling A Muscle: What To Do And How To Prevent It - Functional Advantage
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Pulling A Muscle: What To Do And How To Prevent It

Have You Ever Pulled A Muscle?

Chances are you have… and you probably remember it clearly!  

A lot of patients here at Functional Advantage Physical Therapy are often surprised at how easy it is to pull a muscle. Someone recently pulled a back muscle while sneezing!

They don’t realize how detrimental pulling a muscle could be to our everyday lives until it happens to them and they are very limited. 

Sneezing, turning your neck suddenly, sleeping in an awkward position, moving to pick something up or even reaching for something that’s tricky to get to – are just a few of the things you can do every day to pull a muscle.  

It's important to know what happens when you pull a muscle and how to prevent it in the future. 

Here Is What Actually Happens When You Pull a Muscle:  

Pulling a muscle is something most people have experienced before… whether you've done it badly and it’s stopped you from doing the things you love, or you've had a mild sprain and suffered some discomfort for a couple of hours.  

When you pull a muscle, the pain can range from mild, like a minor neck strain you get from turning your head the wrong way, or the pain can be severe like a lower back injury that leaves you unable to walk for days.  

You might experience a sudden onset of pain, soreness, bruising, stiffness, swelling and many more. 

When you know how to prepare yourself, you can prevent both minor stains and well as severe pain.

What Do I Do When I Pull a Muscle?  

Helping to heal a pulled muscle is different for everyone because we all have different severities and different healing times.  

If the muscle pain is severe – the kind that really does stop you from walking, or turning your neck at all… then you should see someone. Do not mess around with severe injuries and try to treat them at home yourself, or it might last even longer!  

For a mild muscle strain – the kind where you can still move, and you know you’ve done something wrong - see the method below.

As always, use your best judgement. You know your body best. Go and seek help if you have any doubts whatsoever.

RICE Recovery Method  

As soon as you know you’ve pulled a muscle – You use the ‘RICE’ method to get relief. 

This is a treatment that’s recommended to do within the first 24 hours of you pulling a muscle, and it can be a great way to help yourself.  


This might be obvious.  

The first thing you need to do is stop whatever it is you did that pulled your muscle in the first place. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people injure themselves (especially during exercise) and decide to just go ahead and push through the pain… 

Pushing through the pain is something that is guaranteed to make any injury worse.  


A question I get asked a lot is ‘when do I use ice and when do I use heat?’  

The sooner you apply ice, the better!  

Ice provides pain relief and helps minimize swelling.   

Do not apply ice directly to the skin! Wrap the ice in a hand towel and then apply to the area. 


Apply a soft bandage to the area to help support the pulled muscle and reduce the overall swelling, but make sure not to wrap the area so tightly that you restrict blood flow to the area.  

Use your judgement of what tight is too tight for your body!  


Whenever possible try and keep the injured muscle elevated, above the level of your heart when you can. 

You can use pillows to help raise the pain point whilst you rest.  

As a general rule, after doing the RICE method for a day, try and get moving as soon as possible the following day with gentle movements (the kind that don't cause pain).

If anything causes pain – stop this immediately and continue with the RICE method. 

How Can I Prevent Pulling a Muscle?  

Although the RICE method is not a guaranteed fix… it’s proven to help ease the pain and is a good place to start.  

But preventing injuries such as pulled muscles is a lot easier than you may think.  

Stay Hydrated  

By staying hydrated, you’re reducing the risk of cramping (which does cause muscle sprain) and you’re also looking after your blood sugar levels which can stop you from feeling light-headed and dizzy!  

By staying hydrated, you’re helping both your muscles and other aspects of your health.  

Warm Up Properly  

One vital thing you can do to prepare yourself for any kind of activity (it doesn’t have to just be exercise) can be to stretch…  

Some simple warm up exercises can help loosen up the muscles and prevent further injury.  

Pace Yourself 

The last thing that you want to do is injure yourself… so remember not to do too much at once and listen to your body. 

Whether you’re lifting something heavy, weightlifting or simply playing with the kids and grandkids, too much of something is definitely not always a good thing.  


You can’t stretch your muscles without moving…  

Muscle strain is caused when your body is not prepared for a sudden movement.  

Try to build up your exercise and activity levels as weeks progress, this will allow you to build strength in your muscles and prevent things like muscle cramps, tension and aches.  

Try to get into good, healthy habits as soon as possible – starting today!

We’re Here To Help…  

If you’re in pain and would like to talk to us about getting some help...

We are offering free 20-minute consultations with one of our specialist physical therapists. 

If you would like to get one of our limited spots, please click here to complete a short form or CALL us at 989-573-8588. 

Neil Sauer

Neil Sauer

Physical Therapist, Certified Health Coach and company owner Neil Sauer graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science. During that time he played four years of collegiate soccer. Neil earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy from Central Michigan University in 2006. He has taken continuing education courses for Stanley Paris manual therapy techniques and a Gary Gray Functional Training course. He has also taken selective functional movement assessment courses with the North American Sports Medical Institute (NASMI). Neil’s treatment philosophy goes beyond reducing pain and restoring motion/mobility. He has a passion for health and wellness and for improving the quality of life of his clients, and works holistically with them to ensure their injuries do not reoccur and that his clients enjoy optimal functionality. He strives to help his patients live more active, mobile and healthy lives knowing that they don’t have to rely on pain medications, injections or surgery. In his personal life, he is married and has two sons. During spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, fishing, spending time outdoors and leading an active and healthy life. Neil also likes to read as much as possible when he finds/makes time. He primarily reads books on leadership, business and special forces. An avid exercise enthusiast, he continually works to improve his own health and wellness.
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