Muscle & Tendon Strains

What Are The Symptoms of Muscle & Tendon Strains?

Muscle and tendon strains share some common symptoms, but there are differences in how they present. Here are the typical symptoms of muscle and tendon strains:

Symptoms of Muscle Strain


The most common symptom is localised pain at the site of the strained muscle. The pain can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the injury.


The affected area may be swelling or inflammation, usually within the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury.

Muscle Weakness

You may experience weakness in the affected muscle, making it difficult to use it effectively.

Muscle Spasms

Muscle spasms or involuntary contractions can occur in response to the strain.

Limited Range of Motion

You may have difficulty moving the injured muscle or joint through its full range of motion.


In more severe cases, bruising may develop around the injured muscle.

Symptoms of Tendon Strain (Tendonitis)


Tendon strains typically cause pain in the area where the tendon is affected. The pain may be sharp or aching, ranging from mild to severe.


The affected tendon may be tender to the touch.


Stiffness in the affected joint or muscle may be present, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity.


Some cases of tendonitis can lead to localised swelling near the affected tendon.


Sometimes, you may feel or hear a crackling or popping sensation when moving the affected tendon.


Tendon strains can cause weakness in the affected muscle or joint, impacting your ability to perform certain activities.

Pain with Movement

Pain often worsens with specific movements or activities that involve the affected tendon.

It’s important to note that the severity of symptoms can vary depending on the extent of the strain or tendonitis. In mild cases, you may experience only minor discomfort, while more severe strains or tendonitis can result in significant pain and functional limitations. Suppose you suspect you have a muscle or tendon strain. In that case, seeking medical evaluation for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment is advisable, as early intervention can aid in a faster and more complete recovery.

Causes of Muscle & Tendon Strains

Muscle and tendon strains can occur due to various factors and causes, often resulting from overloading or overstretching these tissues. Here are some common causes of muscle and tendon strains:

Causes of Muscle Strains

Sudden or Forceful Movements

Rapid or forceful movements, such as lifting a heavy object, jumping, or sprinting, can lead to muscle strains if the muscle is adequately prepared and conditioned.


Muscles are more susceptible to strains when fatigued because they may not be able to support the load or resist stretching effectively.

Inadequate Warm-Up

Failing to warm up before engaging in strenuous physical activity can increase the risk of muscle strains. Warm-up exercises help prepare the muscles for the demands of training.

Muscle Imbalances

Muscle imbalances, where specific muscles are weaker than others, can lead to strains. Overdeveloped muscles can pull on weaker ones, causing strain.


Pushing the muscles beyond their limits during exercise or physical activities can result in strains. This is common in athletes who train intensely or individuals who engage in high-intensity workouts without proper conditioning.

Causes of Tendon Strains (Tendonitis)

Repetitive Movements: Tendonitis often occurs due to repetitive movements or overuse of a specific tendon. For example, activities like typing, playing a musical instrument, or repetitive sports motions can strain tendons over time.


Tendons naturally lose elasticity and become less flexible, making them more prone to injury and tendonitis.

Poor Posture

Maintaining poor posture over an extended period can strain the tendons, especially those in the neck, shoulders, and wrists.

Inadequate Conditioning

Insufficient conditioning and strength training of muscles can lead to tendonitis, as weak muscles may not provide adequate support to the tendons.

Direct Trauma

Tendons can be strained or injured directly from a blow, fall, or impact.

Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, can increase the risk of tendonitis.


Certain medications, like fluoroquinolone antibiotics, have increased the risk of tendonitis.

Tight or Imbalanced Muscles

Too tight or imbalanced muscles can exert abnormal stresses on tendons, increasing the likelihood of strain.

It’s important to note that prevention is vital to avoiding muscle and tendon strains. This includes proper warm-up and stretching routines, maintaining good posture, using proper ergonomics, and gradually increasing the intensity and duration of exercise to allow the muscles and tendons to adapt. If you suspect a muscle or tendon strain, it’s essential to seek medical evaluation and appropriate treatment to prevent further injury and promote healing.

How Are Muscle & Tendon Strains Treated?

Treating muscle and tendon strains typically involves a combination of self-care measures, medical interventions, and rehabilitation to promote healing and prevent further injury. The specific treatment approach may vary depending on the severity of the strain, but here are standard methods used to manage and treat muscle and tendon strains:


Rest is crucial in the early stages of healing. Avoid activities that worsen the strain and give the affected muscle or tendon time to recover.


Applying ice packs (wrapped in a thin cloth) to the injured area for 15-20 minutes every 1-2 hours in the first 48 hours can help reduce swelling and pain.


An elastic bandage or compression wrap can help reduce swelling and support the injured area. Be careful not to wrap it too tightly, which can impede blood flow.


Elevating the injured limb or area above the heart level can help reduce swelling.

Pain Management

Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help manage pain and inflammation. Follow the recommended dosage guidelines.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can create a tailored rehabilitation program that includes stretching and strengthening exercises to improve range of motion, flexibility, and muscle strength. They may also use techniques such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation.

Bracing or Splinting

Sometimes, a brace or splint may be recommended to immobilise the affected area and allow it to heal.


Severe muscle or tendon strains may require temporary immobilisation with a cast or brace to prevent further damage.

Corticosteroid Injections

In severe inflammation and pain cases, a healthcare provider may administer corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation around the tendon (tendinitis). These are typically used sparingly due to potential side effects.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy

PRP therapy involves injecting a concentrated solution of a patient’s platelets into the injured tendon to promote healing and reduce inflammation. It’s sometimes used for chronic tendonitis.


Surgical intervention may be necessary for severe muscle or tendon tears that do not respond to conservative treatment. Surgery aims to repair the damaged tissues and restore function.

It’s important to note that recovery times can vary depending on the severity of the strain and the individual. Following medical advice and adhering to rehabilitation exercises are essential for a successful recovery. Additionally, taking steps to prevent future strains, such as proper warm-up, conditioning, and ergonomic practices, is crucial for long-term musculoskeletal health. If you suspect a muscle or tendon strain, it’s advisable to seek a medical evaluation to determine the appropriate course of treatment and avoid complications.

Dr Clem Bonney

Dr. Clem Bonney has been assessing and treating injuries like this for 20 years. While most are simple and require minimal intervention, further expert treatment is occasionally required. Early assessment with referral for the correct imaging, physical treatments or surgery is essential to get you back to work or sport as soon as possible.

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