What are the Most Common Causes of Muscle Swelling?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Muscle swelling usually occurs as a result of an injury to the muscle. This may come in the form of a direct trauma, or as a result of muscle strain, in which the tiny tissues that comprise the muscle begin to tear. Different levels of pain may accompany muscle swelling, depending on the severity of the injury. Other conditions that may cause muscle swelling include a muscle rupture and simple overuse of the muscles. A muscle rupture is a serious condition that will very likely require surgery to repair, while overused muscles will heal themselves after a short period of time.

A ruptured muscle occurs when the muscle completely separates from itself or from a tendon. This can be an intensely painful experience, and it is likely to be accompanied by muscle swelling and bruising. If this injury occurs, it is important for the injured person to seek medical attention immediately. In the mean time, he or she can apply ice to help keep swelling down, and keeping the limb elevated will also help keep swelling down. Surgery may be necessary, and the recovery time for such an injury is likely to be quite prolonged. Physical therapy will be necessary once the muscle has healed.


A direct trauma can cause muscle swelling as well. Such injuries commonly occur in sports, especially full contact sports such as football or hockey. The impact can strike the muscle, damaging some of the muscle fibers. This may lead to swelling and bruising. In most cases, the RICE treatment (test, ice, compression, and elevation) is sufficient to treat the injury. Some instances of a swollen muscle due to trauma may not even prevent an athlete from continuing to participate in the sport, though he or she is likely to feel some discomfort. He or she also runs the risk of allowing the injury to worsen by continuing to use the injured muscle.

A muscle strain occurs when the tiny fibers that comprise the muscle begin to tear slightly, often as a result of overuse or improper use. For example, twisting in an awkward manner can cause a muscle to strain. Muscle swelling does not always accompany a strain, though more severe strains may cause swelling or even bruising. The RICE treatment is appropriate for a strained muscle, and recovery time will vary according to the severity of the injury. If swelling has occurred, it is likely the strain is more severe, meaning several days or weeks of recovery may be necessary.


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Post 3

@fBoyle-- Weight training can cause some minor muscle swelling for several hours. It's normal because while we're exercising and particularly when we lift weights, we cause muscles to rip and brake down. The swelling is basically muscle inflammation.

But the swelling shouldn't last very long. If you have excessive swelling that lasts more than two hours, you might have injured yourself. You need to see a doctor in that case.

Post 2

I would have never thought that a medication can cause muscle swelling but it did.

I've been taking a vitamin A medication for cystic acne. Everything seemed fine in the beginning, but after a few weeks, I began to have muscle swelling and muscle pain. It almost felt like I had injured myself.

I told my doctor about it and he told me that he never heard of this before but it is listed as a rare side effect of my medication. I had to stop taking it for this reason.

Post 1

Does weight training cause muscle swelling? I think I have muscle swelling after exercise but I'm not sure.

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