The P.R.I.C.E. formula is the most effective way to treat a strained muscle, according to WebMD — P.R.I.C.E. stands for protect, rest, ice, compress and elevate. Following these steps prevents further injury and reduces swelling. A nonprescription anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen may be used for additional pain relief.
The injured person should take steps to protect the muscle from further damage at the first sign of pain, explains WebMD. They should stop the activity that caused the injury, and rest the muscle, avoiding activities that cause pain, using crutches for weight bearing if the injury is to the leg.
The muscle should be iced as soon as the strain occurs, notes Healthline. This will reduce swelling and numb pain. To prevent skin damage, an ice pack should be wrapped in a thin cloth before applying to the skin for 15 minutes at a time each hour, several times a day.
Compression also reduces swelling and provides support to the strained muscle, states WebMD. An elastic bandage may be used to wrap the injured area. It should provide gentle support but not be so tight as to impair circulation. Sleeve-type braces or supports may be used instead.
Elevation of the injured area also helps to reduce swelling, notes Healthline. Raising the injured area above the level of the heart whenever possible may also help reduce pain.