You may have heard of "walking off" soreness or injuries, but that is no way to treat a painful strain. Strained muscles need to recover, and placing stress on the area may hinder necessary repair. If you suffer a mild strain, the best immediate strategy is to lay off the wounded area and let your body work its healing magic, according to MayoClinic.com. A severe strain requires medical attention.
If you strain a muscle, you'll know it -- these injuries can really hurt. Strains, also called pulled muscles, occur when you stretch a muscle so far that it tears. You may strain a muscle from exerting too much during exercise, practicing improper form or having a random accident, like a fall. Once the muscle has torn, it will be hard to move it. The area will probably swell, and you may develop bruises or other discoloration. If the strained area is bleeding or you can't move the muscle at all, MedlinePlus recommends heading to the doctor or ER pronto.
Walking on Strains
Straining a muscle doesn't bar you from all activity, but the injured area needs at least two full days of rest. This means walking is a no-no for strains in the legs or buttocks, or anywhere else that hurts when you try to walk. If the strain is in a muscle you don't need for walking -- such as your arm -- it may be OK to walk as long as you don't use the strained muscle. MayoClinic.com recommends avoiding any activity that causes pain to the injured area.
To treat minor strains yourself, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends protecting the wound -- which could require splints or crutches -- applying ice to the area to control swelling and compressing the area with bandages in between icings. They also note that elevating the muscle will help reduce swelling. After two or three days, when the pain subsides, they recommend slowly returning to normal activities such as walking, but stopping if the strain starts to hurt. If pain persists after several days, see your doctor.
Reduce your strain risk by simply warming up before vigorous exercise; five to 10 minutes of walking or moderate cycling will do. MedlinePlus also recommends maintaining strong muscles, which you can do with two or three weekly sessions of lifting weights, performing yoga or doing body-weight moves such as squats and lunges. Stretching may also help because it makes muscles more flexible, but only stretch after warm-ups or at the end of your workout -- stretching cold muscles is a good way to cause a strain rather than prevent one.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.