Muscle damage is repaired through a combination of time, physical therapy, and rest. On rare occasions, surgery is required, but this is a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted. There are two types of muscle damage: torn and strained muscles. These have different causes and recovery paths.
Muscles are comprised of a series of interwoven fibers that cover the skeleton. Muscles are attached to bones by tendons, which are a thicker set of interwoven fibers. The muscle fibers are designed to stretch and contract in order to allow a specific range of motion. Any effort beyond this range can tear the fibers and cause muscle damage. When a muscle fiber is damaged, the body immediately starts to repair it at the cellular level.
A torn muscle can occur when there is a sudden interruption in the forward movement of the muscle, causing muscle damage. There are several possible causes for this type of injury, such as a car accident or a fall. A tear to a few muscle fibers is part of any physical activity and causes next day muscle stiffness. A tear through an actual muscle causes great pain, swelling and bruising.
The torn muscle cannot be used to support any weight until it is fully healed. A doctor must examine a torn muscle to determine the location of the tear and if surgery is needed. For the vast majority of cases, all that is required is time and rest. Ice is applied to reduce the swelling in the area of the injury. The injured muscle cannot be used, but the body will repair the damage and reconnect the muscle fibers in time. Once the tear is repaired, additional work is required to strengthen these new muscle fibers.
Muscle building occurs when a muscle is used to exert more effort than was previously required. The fibers break and are rebuilt. The repetition of this process of tearing and rebuilding added more muscle fibers to the area, creating additional muscle bulk.
A strained muscle is one that has been overworked past the outer tolerance level. This can occur due to excess weight or repetition. Rest, ice, and time can repair a strained muscle. Once the soreness has gone, it is important to slowly build the muscles back. Multiple strains to the same muscle greatly increase the chance of a muscle tear.
To rebuild the muscle strength, start by lifting a small weight with the injured muscle. Increase the weights and repetitions each day. After each set of weight lifting, reduce swelling with ice.