Muscle Tears – What The Grades Mean

Muscles can be considered the foundation of our body’s movement, which is why almost any injury, from minor to severe often puts us out of action for a while, and at the very least, in a great deal of pain!

From grade one through to grade three, the damage to muscle fibres generally increases, and with it, the amount of pain and recovery time necessary.

I’m sore a few days after my workout, could this be a tear?

Before learning more about tears, let’s look at muscle soreness, typically experienced after a tough workout. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS is the result of minor muscle strains and although painful (and difficult to walk up stairs) is not considered within the grading of tears. DOMS is usually experienced one to two days after the workout. If you are experiencing an unusual level of pain it is recommended you seek the advice of your physiotherapist for further assessment.

Grade One Tears
> Small amount of tearing within the muscle
> A loss of around 5% movement
> Localised pain and swelling
> Disruption to movement and range of motion
> Tough to move around and cause you some discomfort and pain
> In most cases (not all) will take two to three weeks to heal under guidance of physiotherapist

Grade Two Tears
> Significant loss of between 5-50% less movement and function
> Pain will be localised, however in a “longer than wider” shape
> Can result in bruising and swelling
> Range of motion will significantly decrease by 10-25 degrees
> Will often “walk funny” or be unable to complete movements in their usual fashion
>Will take three to six weeks to recover, under the guidance of a physiotherapist

Grade Three Tears
> A complete rupture of the muscle, where it has basically snapped under pressure
> Pain will be severe and will develop within an hour of the incident
> Experience very limited movement and range of motion
> Bruising/swelling will be evident
> Recovery can take months, and sometimes, there is need for surgery to repair the muscle

How are muscle tears diagnosed?

Tears are often diagnosed by physical examination, and if necessary, through imaging options such as ultra-sound or magnetic resonance imagery (MRI). For these scans to be completed, often your physiotherapist will ask you to seek a referral from your doctor, who will then collect the results and refer them back to your physiotherapist. After healing, recovery is the most important focus for all tears to support the individual in getting back to their original movement and functional capabilities.

How can I avoid a muscle tear?

The best advice in avoiding muscle tears is the term “progressive overload”, this means slowly increasing the intensity and frequency of activity rather than going all in and as hard as possible from the beginning. This gives your body the opportunity to gradually increase its muscle strength and flexibility and prevents them from rupturing. Stretching and active recovery can also be helpful in building your body up slowly, and helping it adjust to changes in your workouts. When it comes to workouts, in the beginning, bigger isn’t always better no matter what your goals are.

What should I do if I think I may have a muscle tear?

The team at Progressive Sports & Spinal Physiotherapy are experienced in a range of areas including rehabilitation after exercise and injury management. Contact the practice today on (02) 4721 7798, email or make your next appointment by clicking here.

Elin, is an alumni of St. Edward’s University and holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, furthered her academic journey by attaining a Doctor of Physiotherapy from Macquarie University in 2022.

Her passion for sports, particularly football (soccer), is evident in both her academic pursuits and personal endeavors. Specialising in the comprehensive well-being of athletes, Elin focuses on restoring them to peak performance while actively preventing future injuries.

Elin’s professional expertise is centered on musculoskeletal rehabilitation, with a specific emphasis on addressing and preventing knee injuries. Her approach integrates expert treatment with a commitment to educating and empowering patients, fostering their active involvement in enhancing their health and overall quality of life.

As an active participant in NPL football with SD Raiders, Elin brings firsthand experience and a profound understanding of the sport’s demands. Beyond the field, she extends her influence by contributing sports coverage over the weekends.

Christopher (Chris) Han graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Therapy, and then completed the Doctor of Physiotherapy program at Macquarie University in 2018. Chris is currently undertaking his PhD at the University of Sydney and Institute for Musculoskeletal Health in the field of low back pain and is due to complete this in early 2024. 

Chris is currently an assistant Physiotherapist for the NRL Referees. Chris has previous experience as the head Physiotherapist at Panthers Premier League Netball and a number of elite sporting athletes in the private setting.

Through Chris’ experiences, he has a particular interest in all areas of the body and musculoskeletal physiotherapy, sports, vestibular rehabilitation, and Men’s Health (pre and post prostate surgery).

Suzanne graduated from Western Sydney University with a Bachelor of Health Science (Sports and Exercise Science) in 2015. She then went on to continue her studies at Macquarie University graduating from the Doctor of Physiotherapy post-graduate degree in June 2019.

Since graduating, Suzanne has worked in the local Penrith area in both private practice and Sports Physiotherapy. Suzanne has worked with sporting teams including Penrith District Netball Association, Mt Druitt Rangers (NPL), Penrith Valley Figure Skating Club, and local dance and cheer schools. 

Suzanne has a particular interest in working with artistic athletes including cheerleaders and dancers. She has a professional background in both cheer and dance and has previously worked as both a cheer coach and dance teacher. Suzanne’s previous experiences are an invaluable resource to her as a physiotherapist, as she has a thorough understanding of the level of physical fitness and skill acquisition that these athletes must have in order to be successful on stage and in competition.

Suzanne’s other areas of clinical interest reside in lower limb musculoskeletal injuries, spinal pathologies and women’s health.

Nathanial graduated as a physiotherapist in 2012 which saw him work in private practice and hospital settings gaining experience in all areas of physiotherapy including hand therapy, splinting/casting, pre/post-operative care, Men’s Health and general musculoskeletal, occupational and sports physiotherapy. Since then he has gone on to complete further studies in physiotherapy enabling him to be the only dual titled Musculoskeletal, Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist in Penrith.

Nathanial has a strong background in sports physiotherapy achieving accreditation with NSWIS as a service provider and working with many elite sports teams.

Nathanial has a particular interest in working with elite athletes, complex cases and in particular assessment and management of knee, hip and shoulder pain.

Andrea graduated from the Australian Catholic University completing her Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science in 2018 and Master’s of Clinical Exercise Physiology in 2020. After graduating she attained accreditation with ESSA as an Exercise Physiologist.

During her studies she gained clinical experience in both hospital and private practice settings, in cardiac rehabilitation, neurological conditions, cancer and chronic musculoskeletal injuries.

Since working at Progressive, Andrea has a specialist interest in treating musculoskeletal injuries, helping people in the mid-late stage of rehab to get them to return to sport or work. As well as helping people manage chronic conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and diabetes.