Ouch! Pulled Muscle!
How long is it appropriate to wait to work out after pulling a muscle?
In our weekly fitness Q&A series, William Sukala, MS, CSCS, answers questions about fitness, from whether to eat before exercising to how to treat sore muscles.
Q: I recently pulled a muscle during exercise. I was wondering how long is appropriate to wait before working out again.
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A: No one will argue that exercise improves both quantity and quality of life. Health and fitness is a lifelong pursuit and one that is not without risks. If you're going to lead an active lifestyle, you have to expect the occasional pulled muscle.
I'm sorry to hear that you injured yourself, but don't let this discourage you from exercise after you've healed. You'll be back in the groove in no time. The first common-sense course of action is to rest the affected muscle. Resist the temptation to tough it out and trudge through painful workouts — this might delay your recovery time. Give it several days for the pain to subside. Ease back into your workouts. Drop the intensity of your cardio workouts and lower the weight during your resistance training. Be sure to thoroughly stretch the injured area after warming up and before exercising it.
Healing time may be affected by what kind of tissue you injured. A run-of-the-mill pulled muscle usually heals within a week or less depending on how severe it is. Tendons, which connect muscle to bone, receive less blood flow than muscles, so require longer recovery time. Ligaments, which link our bones together, are even less vascular and take even longer to heal than tendons. If the pain persists, you should play it safe and see your doctor for further evaluation.