Should You Ice or Heat a Pulled Muscle?

A pulled muscle is also known as muscle strain, and it occurs when a minuscular tear happens within the muscle fibers, caused by a too much muscle stretch.

pulled muscle remedy

A pulled muscle is also known as muscle strain, and it occurs when a minuscular tear happens within the muscle fibers, caused by a too much muscle stretch. It usually happens in the area such as hamstrings, groin, and calf, causing pain, muscle spasm, inflammation, bruising, and limited muscle movements. This injury causes a patient to feel an abrupt tearing sensation in the muscle, making him or her incapable to remain in the activity.

Muscle strain severity is categorized in different grade:

  • In grade I, a patient experience mild discomfort which usually does not limit his or her mobility.
  • Grade II develops into a moderate discomfort, limiting someone’s capability to do high-level activities. Moderate swelling and bruising may also present during this stage.
  • In the third grade, severe injury is causing significant pain which patients are hardly enduring. They complain of swelling, bruising, and muscle spasm.

Ice or Heat, Which is the Best Pulled Muscle Remedy?

First, note that ice therapy (cryotherapy) is for injuries while heat therapy (thermotherapy) is for stiff, aching muscles. There are confusions on which to apply when a certain unfortunate event happens. Using the method poorly can harm your patient. For instance, heat can worsen inflammation while ice can aggravate symptoms of tightness and stiffness.

So let’s elaborate it a little further.

To calm down damaged superficial tissues, used ice. Ice is the drugless way of reducing the swell as well as the pain that the inflammation brought.

On the other hand, thermotherapy is useful to soothe the nervous system and jangled mind. What do I mean by that? The exact cause behind muscle ache is stiffness is unknown, but trigger points are one factor to consider that probably cause it. By applying hot compress, the muscles are relaxed, causing the brain to send a signal all over the body and it results in eliminating the muscle pain. According to the experts, most of the painful problems human experience is just a cause of stress and fear.

So what do you use to treat a pulled muscle? Let’s check if your guess is right.

Pulled Muscle Remedy

Results for treating muscle strains vary with performing the right steps and time. If you performed the correct treatment, a pulled muscle will heal; but doing the opposite may hinder the injuries’ recovery. To guide you with the right path of pulled muscle treatment, follow the steps below:

1. Rest 

For the early recovery phase, resting for 1 to 5 days is highly recommended, but it will depend on the severity of the injury. Immobilization is usually not necessary. In fact, splint or cast immobilization should be supervised by a doctor because the stiffness of the muscle may result if done poorly.

2. Ice

Icing the affected area can reduce pain, swelling, and bleeding. This should be performed as soon as the muscle is pulled. Cryotherapy should be frequently, however, 15 minutes or more at a time is very not advisable.

3. Heat Application

According to one study, the temperature has an impact to a muscle stiffness. The muscle is less likely to sustain a strain type of injury by keeping the body and muscles warm.

4. Anti-Inflammatory Medication

Anti-inflammatory medicines are available in most pharmacist. It can alleviate pain and reduce swelling at the same time. However, there are potential side effects in taking anti-inflammatory medicines, so check out with your doctor first before taking any anti-inflammatory medications.

5. Gentle Stretching and Strengthening

Stronger and more flexible muscles are not prone to injuries. So try some gentle stretching if you already have a muscle strain. This can both treat and prevent further muscle strain injuries as stretching can regain the strength back to your muscles

6. Warm-Up Properly

Warming up is important before doing a full exercise. This serves as the preparation of the muscles for more intense training.

7. Avoid Muscle Fatigue

This is related with warming up before working out. However, an additional reminder is added. Restoring back muscle strength is likely to prevent having another injury. But be cautious, fatigue muscles become more receptive to injuries like pulled muscles.

Perhaps seeing both icing and heating therapy on the list makes you more confused. However, both therapy is correct with the proper application.

Muscles injuries call for ice therapy and you can identify a true muscle injury by the involved obvious trauma during an intense effort, which suddenly causes a severe pain. If the muscle is truly torn, the injured area will swell. At first, apply ice so that swelling and pain will edge off, but once the worst is over, it’s time to take a hot compress.


Both ice and heat are pointless or worse when unwanted. For example, icing when you’re already shivering or heating when you’re sweating. And when brains recognize icing or heating as a threat instead of a remedy, they may likely to increase the pain. According to an article, most people found ice to be more threatening.

For instance, you might think that you have a back strain or knee strain when in fact it’s just muscle strain. Icing the trigger points may result in an even more painful back.

On the other hand, let’s use heat and inflammation as an example. Guess what? The combination is bad. So watch out for the worst when heat is added to an already injured muscle. There was even a situation wherein a freshly injured knee was advised (by a doctor) to apply a hot compress. Yep, the result was not fun. He got an inflammation triple the size when he was not applying the heat yet. Plus he got a bonus triple pain.

So the bottom line is depending on what you are feeling, you should use the opposite as a treatment. If you feel a burning sensation from the muscle strain, heat cannot help you soothe the pain and ice won’t seem effective if you are already chilling or if the idea of ice doesn’t feel right for you.

pulled muscle remedy

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