Difference Between Pulled Muscle and Torn Muscle

A human body is very deeply structured and doing any form of exercise requires a correct technique. Oftentimes while carelessly performing a physical task, our muscles respond negatively. It can cause muscles to pull or even tear in some cases, causing injury. Although pulled muscle and torn muscle are two different injuries when it comes to our body, people often get confused between the two.

Pulled Muscle vs Torn Muscle

The main difference between pulled muscle and torn muscle is that pulled muscle is caused when a ligament is stretched more than the body is capable of while the torn muscle is caused when a tendon is overstretched more than the body’s capability. The symptoms for both these injuries can often be similar, which makes it difficult for most people to differentiate between them.

Pulled Muscle vs torn Muscle

A pulled muscle is often called a Sprain. When a body part due to any reason twists or falls directly, it can cause the soft tissue fibers present in ligaments of that particular region to overstretch or tear, causing various symptoms depending on the severity.

A torn muscle is often called a Strain. When someone improperly lifts a heavyweight or anyhow overuses the muscle, it can cause muscle tissues of that region to overstretch or tear. The symptoms are often similar to a sprain but can vary depending on the injury.

Comparison Table Between Pulled Muscle And Torn Muscle

Parameters of ComparisonPulled MuscleTorn Muscle
Other NamesSprain or Ligament Tear.Strain or Torn Tendon.
CausesTwisting of the body part or falling directly on it, running on uneven ground.Lifting weights with improper technique, Bad Posture, Poor Flexibility, Lack of strength.
SymptomsPain, Bruising, Popping sound in the moment of injury, limited movement around the joint, etc.Cramps, tenderness, Swelling muscle weakness, etc.
Regions commonly affectedWrist and AnkleLower back and Hamstring (A muscle on the back of thighs)
PreventionWearing strong sports shoes to support ankles, regularly indulging in physical activities.Warming up before workouts, stretching after the workout, using proper safety equipment.

What is Pulled Muscle?

Pulled muscle or sprain is a common injury caused by a sudden overstretch in the ligaments. The tissue fibers of the ligaments can sometimes even be torn, making it more severe than just an overstretch. Ligaments are comprised of connective fibrous tissues whose purpose is to connect bone to bone and hence, they are the support structures of the body. Ligaments are present between the joints of bones.

There are mainly three scales determining the severity of a pulled muscle:

  • Grade 1: A mild injury caused by overstretching but no tearing of the ligaments. It is usually self-diagnosed with some rest.
  • Grade 2: A moderate injury caused by not only overstretching but a partial tearing of the ligaments as well. It can diagnose itself but it is recommended to see a doctor as it may get severe if not properly taken care of.
  • Grade 3: A severe injury caused by a complete tear of one or more ligaments. It requires immediate medical surgery as the injured region becomes too painful to be moved. An X-ray is also done for the checkup of bones.

What is Torn Muscle?

Torn muscle or strain is an injury caused commonly by overuse of muscles fibers which leads to overstretching of one or more tendons. The tissue fibers of tendons if torn, cause severe injury. Tendons comprise connective fibrous tissues which connect muscles to bones. Unlike ligaments, their function is to help the body flexibly move in any direction. They are made up of a protein called collagen and are dense.

Just like a sprain, three scales that determine the severity of a torn muscle :

  • Grade 1: A mild injury where tendons are only slightly overstretched and very few muscle fibers get damaged. It is usually self-diagnosed but can take a couple of days to completely recover.
  • Grade 2: A moderate injury where about half of the muscle fibers get damaged causing acute swelling and pain. It can usually be treated by a regular surgeon and allowing the body to rest for a couple of days.
  • Grade 3: A critical injury caused by most of the muscle fibers being completely shattered causing severe pain while moving. It requires immediate surgical treatment and can take anyone a few months to completely recover from it as the torn muscle fibers grow slowly.

Main Differences Between Pulled Muscle and Torn Muscle

  1. Pulled muscle can more often be caused than torn muscle. Since walking, running, or doing professional work that needs some physical assistance is a regular part of people’s lives, pulled muscles are very common. However, a torn muscle is usually caused by sudden stress during intensive physical tasks.
  2. Pulled muscles are usually self-cured as they rarely get severe. On the other hand, a torn muscle has a considerable chance of getting severe with time and doing permanent damage if not treated immediately with professional medical attention.
  3. The after-effects of a pulled muscle are almost negligible but torn muscles can cause noticeable loss of strength, muscle imbalances, losing some flexibility, etc.
  4. The treatment mostly is similar including R.I.C.E Techniques, MRI, X-ray, etc. but torn muscles if severe require several flexibilities and movement exercises recommended by the doctor as the muscles need to recover completely.
  5. The region affected also differs in the two injuries. Muscles are pulled usually in the wrist and ankles but muscle tearing is observed in the lower back, hamstring muscles, glutes, etc.


Even though both the injuries initially seem quite similar, the differences show when they are scientifically studied. Pulled muscle and torn muscle are two common injuries among various athletes, powerlifters, sportsmen, etc. but are often confused with each other due to similar symptoms. Following a healthy diet plan and regularly exercising to maintain a healthy weight is essential. Although ligaments and tendons are remarkably strong, excessive body weight puts additional stress on them which can cause pulled muscle and muscle tearing.

Studies have proved that various supplements provide nutrients to ligaments and tendons which strengthens them. Such supplements are widely used by athletes. Vitamin C tablets, gelatin, collagen, etc. are some common examples of these supplements. If ligaments and tendons are strong, the chances of a pulled muscle and torn muscle are very slim.

While taking precautions such as wearing exercising shoes, following proper exercising techniques, wearing weight lifting safety equipment, etc is very important, It is also essential to know the symptoms and causes so that the injury can be identified at the right time and properly treated if needed.


  1. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/28/2/112.short
  2. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/036354659602406S02
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