How Long Does It Take for a Strained Muscle in the Arm to Heal?

Medically Reviewed on 1/4/2022

How long does a muscle strain take to heal?

A muscle strain refers to tearing or stretching of the muscle fibers. Most muscle strains occur due to one of two reasons — either the muscle contracted too strongly or was forced to stretch beyond its limit.

Typically, a strained arm muscle heals in a few weeks to a few months, depending on the extent of the injury to the muscle. 

The time a muscle strain takes to heal depends on the severity of the damage. In milder cases, the muscle stays strong and intact as only a few fibers are torn or stretched. But in severe cases, a lot of muscle fibers may have torn. The healing time for severe muscle strains in the arm or any other body part is longer. Less severe strains can heal in a few weeks or days, while more severe cases can take a few months to heal properly.

A doctor can monitor your healing progress and guide you accordingly.

Grade I strain: Mild, as only a few muscle fibers are damaged. The muscle has normal strength even though the injured area may be painful and tender.

Grade II strain: Moderate, as more muscle fibers are damaged. The person experiences more pain and tenderness. In some cases, there may be some swelling too that takes a few days to heal.

Grade III strain: Severe. Such a muscle strain occurs when you hear a ''pop'' due to the muscle ripping into two pieces. In some cases, the muscle shears away from the tendon. These injuries are much more severe and require immediate medical attention. Some people need surgery to reattach the tendon and the muscle.

How to treat a bicep injury at home?

While you may think you sprained your arm muscle moving heavy furniture or lifting heavy weights at the gym, the injuries are often due to repetitive overuse of the muscles. If you repeatedly lift weights at your job or play a sport with repetitive motions, your risk of arm strains increases.

It's hard to prevent these injuries since they develop slowly over time. But you should listen to your body and not push yourself beyond your breaking point. If an activity is causing you pain, it's best to stop right away.

Not all bicep injuries require you to go to a doctor immediately. You can use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and muscle pain. You should also take a break from whichever activity is straining your muscles or causing you pain.

Apply ice packs to minimize swelling and pain.

Tips for treating a strained muscle

Along with anti-inflammatory medicines, you can also follow the RICE protocol to manage the pain and swelling.

  • Rest: Make sure you give ample rest to the area of the muscle strain. Even if you need to move your arm, don't do any intensive activity. Instead, only use your arm for gentle movements.
  • Ice: Apply ice to your arm for 20 minutes at intervals. Ice reduces inflammation and swelling. But don't apply ice directly to your arm. Instead, wrap it in a bandage or a cloth and then put it on your arm.
  • Compression: Wrap the muscle using an elastic bandage to reduce swelling. Don't wrap your arm too tightly, as it will restrict blood circulation.
  • Elevate: Keep the injured area elevated to reduce swelling.

You can also use a heating pad three days after the injury. Put it on the affected area a few times every day. Instead of applying the heating pad directly to your injured skin, wrap it in a towel to keep your skin safe.

How to prevent muscle strains?

Certain parts of your body are more prone to muscle strains, especially if you play a sport or lift weights. Legs and ankles are susceptible to strains in sports that feature jumping, such as basketball.

If you play golf or do gymnastics, you're at a higher risk of getting strains on your hands. Elbow strains are common in people who play racquet or throwing sports, such as tennis.

The best way to prevent strains is to use the proper technique for every sport or lifting in the gym. If you're not in shape to play the sport, don't play it. If your job is physically demanding, you can prevent injuries by conditioning your body to the task slowly.

When to talk to a doctor?

If the pain does not go away even after a few weeks of doing these at-home treatments, you should speak to a doctor. In most cases, damage to your arm muscles does not require surgery.

Depending on your case, your doctor may recommend you get physical therapy.


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Medically Reviewed on 1/4/2022

Cleveland Clinic: "Tips for Treating Your Bicep Pain at Home."

Harvard Health Publishing: "Muscle Strain."

Mayo Clinic: "Muscle strains," "Sprains."