It can be difficult to decide if you have a torn muscle immediately after the injury. After all, a sprain or strain to the ligament or muscle can often be just as painful as a torn muscle. Since everyone’s tolerance to pain is so widely varied, judging the severity of an injury by pain alone can lead to much greater problems down the road.
That said, the sudden onset of acute pain is the first sign that you may have a torn muscle:
1 – Sharp, sudden pain
A sharp, sudden pain at the time of injury is a common sign of a muscle tear. The pain may be localized to the area of the tear or may be felt throughout the muscle.
2 – Swelling
When a muscle is torn, damage triggers an inflammatory response in the body, which is a natural process that helps to repair the injury. As part of this response, blood vessels in the area of the injury dilate, allowing more blood to flow to the site. This increased blood flow brings with it an influx of white blood cells and other healing agents, such as plasma and platelets.
The accumulation of these fluids and cells in the area of the injury can cause swelling, or edema. The swelling is a sign that the body is trying to repair the injury, but it can also be painful and impede movement. Swelling can also cause pressure on the nerve and blood vessels, which is why it’s important to take steps to reduce the swelling and allow the muscle to heal properly.
It’s also worth noting that, severe muscle tears may cause hematoma, which is a collection of blood outside the blood vessels, it can cause a visible or palpable bump, this is different than the normal swelling, and it needs medical attention.
3 – Bruising
A torn muscle causes bleeding within the tissue and surrounding area. This bleeding can lead to the formation of a bruise, also known as a contusion. The bruise is caused by the leakage of blood from damaged blood vessels into the surrounding tissue. The blood then gets trapped under the skin, causing the characteristic discoloration of a bruise.
As the bruise heals, the body breaks down and reabsorbs the blood, and the bruise will change color, often progressing through shades of purple, blue, green, yellow, and brown before disappearing. The bruise color depends on the depth and location of the injury and the amount of blood leakage. The deeper the injury, the more blood will leak out, and the more severe the bruise will be.
4 – Weakness
When a muscle is torn, the integrity of the muscle fibers is compromised, and the muscle is unable to function normally. This means that the torn muscle is no longer able to generate the force necessary for movement, resulting in weakness.
Additionally, the nerve that supplies the muscle may also be damaged, further contributing to muscle weakness. The nerve provides the electrical impulse that causes the muscle to contract, and if it’s damaged, the muscle will be unable to respond to the impulse, leading to muscle weakness.
In severe cases, a muscle tear may result in complete muscle rupture, where the muscle fibers are completely separated from each other. In this case, the muscle will be unable to contract at all, resulting in complete loss of function and muscle weakness.
It’s important to note that muscle weakness may not be immediate following a muscle tear, it may take some time for the muscle to fully heal and regain its strength.
5 – Limited range of motion
A torn muscle can limit range of motion in several ways:
- Pain can make it difficult to move the affected limb or joint through its full range of motion. This pain can be caused by the injury itself, as well as by the inflammation and swelling that occur as part of the healing process.
- Scar tissue formation: As the muscle heals, scar tissue can form at the site of the tear. Scar tissue is not as flexible as healthy muscle tissue, and it can make it more difficult to move the muscle through its full range of motion.
- muscle spasms are involuntary contractions of the muscle. These spasms can make it difficult to move the muscle through its full range of motion, as the muscle is contracting and tensing up on its own.
- Loss of muscle strength: As mentioned earlier, a muscle tear can cause a loss of muscle strength, this can make it difficult to initiate or control movements, and in severe cases, the muscle may not be able to move at all.
6 – Popping or tearing sensation
Biceps tears that happen with a sudden injury are often immediately noticeable. Along with sharp pain, you might hear or feel a tearing sensation. an audible popping or snapping sound. Many people report hearing and feeling something like “snapping” or “popping.”
It is important to seek medical care for a torn muscle because:
- Proper diagnosis: A medical professional, such as a doctor or physical therapist, can properly diagnose a muscle tear and determine the extent of the injury. This is important for developing an appropriate treatment plan and for determining the length of time needed for recovery.
- Preventing complications: A muscle tear, especially a severe one, can cause significant bleeding and inflammation, which can lead to the formation of hematoma or even muscle necrosis if left untreated. A medical professional can properly manage these complications, which can help to prevent further injury and ensure proper healing.
- Proper treatment: Medical professionals can provide appropriate treatment for a muscle tear, such as rest, ice, compression, and elevation, as well as physical therapy and rehabilitation to help the muscle heal and regain strength.
- Proper timing for return to activity: A medical professional can provide guidance on when it is safe to return to normal activity and prevent reinjury.
- Proper management of pain: A medical professional can help to manage pain and discomfort associated with a muscle tear, which can help to reduce the recovery time and improve the overall healing process.