Strain: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 11/20/2020

A strain is an injury to either a muscle or a tendon. This can be a simple overstretch of the muscle or tendon, or it can result in a partial or complete tear.

Signs and symptoms of a strain can include

  • swelling, bruising, or redness due to the injury,
  • pain at rest,
  • pain with muscle or joint movement,
  • weakness of the muscle or tendons, or
  • inability to use the muscle at all.

Symptoms can be mild or severe depending on the extent of the injury.

Causes of a strain

Trauma of some type causes a strain. Usually, twisting or pulling a muscle or tendon causes strains. Trauma or an injury such as a blow to the body or by improperly lifting heavy objects or over-stressing the muscles causes an acute strain. Chronic strains are usually the result of overuse in the form of prolonged, repetitive movement of the muscles and tendons.

Other strain symptoms and signs

  • Inability to Use the Muscle at All
  • Pain at Rest
  • Pain with Muscle or Joint Movement
  • Swelling, Bruising, or Redness Due to the Injury
  • Weakness of the Muscle or Tendons


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.