How To Rehab A Muscle Strain or Tear

If you’re an athlete, chances are you’ve probably experienced a muscle strain or tear (we will use strain and tear interchangeably). Muscle tears are prevalent in athletes due to the high amount of strain we put on our muscles. When we put too much external load on them, it can result in a tear. Tears can occur at any point along the muscle and can vary in severity. Most muscle tears are graded from 1-3 based on the severity.

Using dry needling during a physical therapy treatment in Franklin, TN. This athlete is recovering form a calf muscle strain during a soccer match,

Using dry needling during a physical therapy treatment in Franklin, TN. This athlete is recovering form a calf muscle strain during a soccer match,

Symptoms of muscle tears include swelling, tenderness to touch, loss of range of motion and bruising. Athletes involved in weight lifting, running, or contact sports are most prone to muscular injuries. It can take between 6-8 weeks for a damaged muscle to heal. You’ll want to work on your range of motion after the initial tear and begin gentle strengthening after two weeks of rest. If you start loading the tissue too soon, you may further the tear.

The good news is that most muscle tears respond very well to physical therapy. In fact most of my athletes in Nashville, TN and Franklin, TN have been able to make a complete recovery at an elite level without the need for any other intervention. Because most muscle tears don’t require surgical intervention, physical therapy is usually a fantastic treatment method.

The posterior chain muscles (glute, hamstring and calf) are the most frequently torn, but we see a wide variety of tears in the athletic population (runners, cyclists, crossfitters, soccer players, football players, etc.)

If you’re currently dealing with a muscle tear, it’s imperative to give it time to heal and not re-injure during the process. As mentioned above, most muscle tears take between 6-8 weeks to heal. Creating a program for athletes that allows them to stay active and maintain their fitness while simultaneously giving their injury time to heal is imperative. Depending on an athlete's upcoming race or game schedule, it can be difficult to manage. However the risk of doing future damage to athletic performance often outweighs the benefits of continuing to compete with an existing strain.

At Paceline Physical Therapy,  we often treat muscle tears with a combination of activity modification, cross training and manual therapy. Some of our manual therapy options include joint mobilization, dry needling, cuppingblade scraping , taping and hypervolt gun massage.

If you’re an athlete with a muscle tear, we’d be happy to help you recover from it. Just TEXT US for more information.


Josh Orendorf is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and owner of Paceline Physical Therapy in Franklin, TN. He is an Ironman triathlete and Boston Marathon qualifier. He has a passion for helping athletes conquer injury and return to sport without pain. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife, Leigh, and their dog, Annie.