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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.