What Are The 4 Types Of Muscle Injuries?

Article by John Miller

What Are The Muscle Injury Types?

We categorise your muscles into three main types: skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscles

  • Skeletal muscle is the most common muscle tissue type in the body. Plus, it is prone to injury. Skeletal muscles facilitate your body’s movement and strength. The 4 types of skeletal muscle injuries include:
    • Muscle Strain/Soreness
    • Muscle Tear/Rupture
    • Muscle Contusion (Haematoma)
    • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Cardiac muscle forms your heart muscle walls.
  • Smooth muscle tissue is in the walls of hollow organs like the bladder, passageways like the airway and gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Muscle Strain/Soreness

Muscle strains result in small or microscopic muscle fibre tears. We commonly refer to a muscle strain as a “pulled” muscle. This injury occurs when the muscle is mildly overstretched, or overused. Common muscle strain injuries include the hamstring, shoulder, neck and lower back.

Muscle strains result in muscle soreness, stiffness, weakness, swelling and spasms. They usually heal over a few days. Ice, anti-inflammatory medications, massage and gentle stretching may help the muscle injury heal faster.

Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is post-exercise-related muscle pain. DOMS develops after excessive and unaccustomed exercise. It is particularly prevalent if that exercise has an eccentric component. DOMS is myofibril tears (muscle strains). The microtrauma results in an inflammatory response with intramuscular fluid and electrolyte shifts.

We do know that biochemical markers (such as creatine kinase and lactic dehydrogenase) are in the blood of DOMS sufferers, which is consistent with muscle fibre disruption.

Swelling, altered muscle firing patterns and pain are the reasons why muscle strength, motions and function is impaired in DOMS sufferers.

Muscle Tear / Rupture

While a muscle strain refers to a microscopic injury to muscle fibres, a muscle tear is a more significant macroscopic injury. We can normally visualise the damaged fibres on an ultrasound scan or MRI. Much like muscle strains, the most common muscle tears occur in the lower back, neck, shoulder, and hamstring. It typically takes a substantial amount of force to cause this type of injury. Muscle fibres and the blood vessels that supply it tear.

Muscle tears usually cause a sudden onset of severe muscle pain, as well as bruising, weakness and swelling. Muscle tear sufferers should seek urgent medical attention to confirm the diagnosis and undertake a physiotherapist-guided rehabilitation to return to sport or work quicker, plus reduce the likelihood of reinjury. Patients with a torn muscle also often require follow-up care and rehabilitation with physical therapy.

The most severe extreme of a muscle tear is a complete rupture. Complete muscle rupture usually requires surgical repair and post-operative physiotherapy to optimise your return to function.

Muscle Contusion (Haematoma)

Muscle contusion may also be referred to as a muscle “haematoma”. This injury occurs when a blunt object strikes the body and crushes underlying muscle tissue but does not break the skin. Common examples include being hit with a ball or being accidentally kneed e.g. “corked thigh“. Contusions are typically painful, swollen, weak and result in a reduced range of motion, as a protection mechanism. Visible bruising is from damaged blood vessels that pools underneath the skin’s surface.

While most mild contusion injuries often heal with ice, rest and time, more severe injuries sometimes require surgical intervention to address excessive pressure accumulated from internal swelling and bleeding.


Rhabdomyolysis is a severe condition when muscle fibres die and their contents release into your bloodstream. Your kidneys normally filter out these muscle byproducts. However, in rhabdomyolysis kidney failure can result and be fatal. Urgent medical attention is required.

Muscle pain, weakness and dark urine are the common symptoms of rhabdomyolysis.

Causes of rhabdomyolysis may be traumatic or non-traumatic. Examples of traumatic rhabdomyolysis include car accidents, crush injuries or lying unconscious on a hard surface for an extended period. Causes of non-traumatic muscle injury include heatstroke, infections, intense exercise, seizures, and the use of certain recreational drugs like cocaine and amphetamines.

If you have any of the symptoms please seek urgent medical assessment.

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