Sports Medicine: Muscle Strains

A Spine Center physician reviews an X-ray.

Muscle Strains

What are muscle strains?

A strain involves the stretching or tearing of your muscle or tendon. There are two categories of strain. An acute strain is caused by a muscle that is pulled or stretched abruptly. A chronic strain is caused by prolonged, repetitive motion using the same group of muscles. (A sprain is a similar injury, but in a ligament.)


Strains often occur in the lower back and in the hamstring muscle at the back of thigh. With an acute strain, it is possible to have damage to the small blood vessels in the affected area, which would show up as a bruise. With either acute or chronic strains, you’ll experience pain even when the muscle is at rest; restricted movement because of pain; and possibly spasms or swelling in the area.


An acute strain can be the result of a fall or a sudden motion of the wrong kind. Lifting a heavy suitcase improperly can cause a strain, as can slipping on a wet floor. A chronic strain results from muscle overuse, and is often due to fatigue, poor conditioning, or consistently not warming up correctly.


“After taking your medical history and doing a physical exam, your doctor would most likely manipulate the affected joint to determine which muscle or tendon is affected. Tests like x-rays could be used to rule out bone damage, while an MRI might be indicated if your physician is uncertain about the extent of the strain and how many muscles, ligaments, or tendons are involved,” says Behnam Salari, DO, an orthopedic physician at OINJ.

“Your course of treatment would depend on which muscles are affected,” says Michael Gutkin, MD, a physiatrist at OINJ. “Generally, rest, accompanied by over-the-counter pain relievers, ice, and compression are all that is needed. Elevation is helpful if swelling is involved. Usually, what you need to do is give your body enough time to recover.”

“In the process of testing, if something like a torn ligament is found, other treatments may be indicated, or surgery may be necessary,” adds Dr. Salari.

Why Choose The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey

At OINJ, board certified physicians work collaboratively to come up with the best solutions for you. Using innovative techniques and the most up-to-date research and technologies available, our specialists have one goal: to get you back into the best of orthopedic health. We work with each other, as well as with other partners in your care, to develop the treatment plan that will work for you.

Our multiple office locations that can be reached by one centralized call center make it easy to schedule and get to appointments, and we treat patients of all ages with injuries and orthopedic conditions of all kinds.

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Featured Physicians

Michael S. Gutkin, MD – Physiatrist

Dual board certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in sports medicine as well as physical medicine and rehabilitation, Dr. Gutkin is a physiatrist whose areas of expertise include interventional spinal and joint injection, pain management, rehabilitation, and spinal injuries. He is a partner at The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey.

Dr. Gutkin completed his residency at The Rusk Institute at NYU Medical Center, and received his medical degree from St. George’s University Medical School. His undergraduate degree in biology was earned at Ithaca College in New York.

Behnam Salari, DO – Orthopedic Physician

Board certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Orthopedic Surgery, Dr. Salari’s areas of expertise include spine trauma, revision spine surgery, spine tumors, and neck and back pain.

Dr. Salari had dual fellowship training at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center, and The Maryland Spinal Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. He received his medical degree from The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and his master’s degree in biomedical engineering from Columbia University. He earned his undergraduate degree in chemical biology from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey is a premier multi-disciplinary center offering complete orthopedic care, rehabilitation and pain management services to patients of all ages and activity levels using a customized treatment plan to fit individual needs.

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