First Things First
After an injury, your priorities should be a diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Correctly diagnosing an injury is key to using the right treatments and exercises. A correct diagnosis also lets you know whether you need to see a doctor or visit an emergency room. If you have any doubts about your injuries, seek medical attention immediately to reduce the risk of making injuries worse or even permanent. No matter what activity caused your injury, recreational sports, work, or otherwise, you should stop that activity immediately until your wound has healed.
Deciding Whether It Is Torn or Strained
Strains are often colloquially called a pulled muscle. Pulled muscles occur when the muscle is stretched beyond its capacity. This can happen if you use a muscle too much, are fatigued, or move awkwardly or dangerously. Pulled muscles can happen to any tissue in the body. However, they usually take place in the shoulders, hamstrings, neck, and shoulders. If a pulled muscle is severe enough, it may be a full-on muscular tear.
A muscle tear occurs when your muscle rips. When this happens, you need to give your muscle time to heal fully before any new strenuous activity. Muscle tears that do not heal properly on their own may require corrective surgery. This is different from pulled muscles, which usually heal correctly by themselves. After surgery, you will probably need regular physical therapy to help your muscles regain their former strength and range of motion. Surgery is, thankfully, the last option for tears since doctors prefer other alternatives to be tried first.
Tears and strains can both cause bruises at the site of the injury. You may also see discoloration on your skin resulting from either injury. If muscles feel knotted up or are having spasms, it is potentially a tear or strain. Pulled muscles usually still allow for a full range of motion, while muscle tears can limit or immobilize the injury. Pulled muscles generally heal within a few weeks. For more severe injuries, it can often take months to recover fully.
Get Expert Advice: Talk to Your Doctor
If you cannot tell whether an injury is a tear, strain, or something else, it may be time to get medical attention. If symptoms like pain or swelling are unbearable or become worse, you should go to an emergency room immediately. If it is not an emergency, you should call your doctor to schedule an appointment. However, if you would rather be seen more quickly, you should stop into a walk-in urgent care clinic.
When you talk to your doctor, bring any records of what happened to cause your injury. Write down whatever you remember so you do not leave anything out. These include sounds, sights, how your body moved, and other details that may not even seem relevant to you. These can often help doctors make an accurate diagnosis more quickly. If your doctor still does not have a confident diagnosis, they will probably have your injury x-rayed to check for breaks or fractures.