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.

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, working in the cardiac rehabilitation program, heart failure service and mental health unit at Nepean Hospital. And at the ACU Exercise and Lifestyle Clinic working with clients with neurological conditions, cancer and chronic musculoskeletal injuries.

Since graduating, Andrea enjoys working with a variety of clients. She has a particular interest in treating musculoskeletal injuries and neurological conditions, striving to help people increase their functional capacity to get them back to work, sport or the things they love doing.