Muscle tear and cramp

General information

A muscle tear is sudden mechanical tissue damage in a muscle. The area of injury is painful and it may be swollen and bruised due to bleeding in the tissue. The most typical area to sustain muscle tears are the calf, thigh, biceps or abdominal muscles.

Cramps can occur in a tired muscle. Cramps typically occur at night. Cramps can be triggers by long-term exertion or excessive stress and strain. Cramps usually occur only after exertion. Cramps are more likely if you are dehydrated or electrolyte imbalance (e.g. after sweating heavily).

The tendency to suffer from cramps increases with age and some illnesses also predispose to cramps. Sometimes no underlying cause can be found. In a cramp, the muscle suddenly contracts causing sharp pain in the muscle. The muscle will soon relax but may remain sore for some time. Cramps are common in the legs but can occur anywhere.


You can take painkillers to reduce the pain caused by muscle tear. Elevation, ice and gently compressing a bandage on the muscle will also help. Apply ice for 15–20 minutes at a time every 1–2 hours as necessary.

The best way to handle a muscle cramp is to stretch the muscle gently. You can also try and massage the muscle lightly. Cramps can be avoided by keeping hydrated and maintaining a normal salt balance. Some find magnesium products helpful against cramps.

When should you seek medical advice?

If the muscle feels weak, if the pain is severe, or if there is an obvious dent in the muscle, it is best to have your injury assessed by a healthcare professional.

This Self-care instruction has been produced in collaboration with Duodecim Terveyskirjasto

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Updated  8.6.2020