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Q: How long do I have to rest a pulled muscle before I can start exercising again?

Slipping, lifting something heavy, or just overdoing it during sports can cause you to strain, pull, or even tear one of your muscles or the tendons it’s attached to. While these kinds of injuries can be painful, you can usually take care of them at home.

With a muscle strain, you might see swelling, redness, or bruising, and the area may be painful both when you use the muscle and when you’re at rest.

Apply ice packs to the area while the muscle is in the stretched position, elevate the affected area, apply compression and support with an elastic bandage, and rest the muscle by avoiding activity. You can take an anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling.

After three days, after the inflammation has gone down, you can start applying heat to the area, to help the muscle heal.

See a doctor if the pain doesn’t subside within a week, if the area is numb or bleeding, or if you can’t move your arms or legs.

How long you have to rest depends on the injury. It could be three to six weeks for a mild strain, or several months for something more severe. But in most cases, you will recover with at-home treatment if you give it enough time.

Warren V. Ayers, MD

Orthopedic surgery

Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic
85 Maui Lani Parkway
Wailuku, HI 96793