A strained chest muscle may occur after a strenuous physical workout or a traumatic injury to the chest. It is important to visit a doctor to rule out serious medical conditions such as a broken rib or damage to the muscles surrounding the heart. Once the diagnosis of a strained chest muscle has been made, treatment can begin. Some treatment options may include rest, over-the-counter or prescription medications, and heat or ice therapy.
Pain is the primary symptom of this kind of strained muscle. Depending on the severity of the injury, the pain may be constant, or it may intensify during any kind of movement involving the chest. If the strain is severe, moving the arms may lead to increased muscle pain in the chest. Since vital organs such as the heart and lungs are located in the chest cavity, it is extremely important to obtain an accurate diagnosis instead of attempting to self-medicate without knowing if serious damage has been done.
Rest is an important first step in treating a strained chest muscle. Strained or pulled muscles will often heal themselves over a period of time as long as the patient avoids activities which may cause further damage. Bed rest is generally recommended during this period of recovery.
While recovering from a strained muscle, pain medications may help you to be more comfortable. Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen are often suggested since ibuprofen helps to reduce swelling and inflammation while reducing pain levels. If non-prescription pain relievers do not provide adequate relief, the doctor may prescribe stronger medications.
Heat or ice therapy is often recommended when treating this condition. Both methods have relatively equal success rates, so whether to use heat or ice depends largely on your preferences. Many patients prefer to use ice therapy for the first few days after the injury in order to help reduce swelling. Heat therapy is often used later to help loosen muscles. Each method should be used for only 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
After a few days of rest and recuperation, the person who has suffered a strained muscle may slowly begin to resume activity. Gentle stretching exercises should begin slowly, with the patient stopping if pain returns. Once stretching becomes comfortable, you may slowly resume normal activities as tolerated, being careful not to do too much too soon. Continued pain should be reported to a physician.