What are the Most Common Causes of a Deltoid Strain?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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The most common causes of a deltoid strain include sports-related injuries, which are generally caused by sudden or harsh movements of the muscle. This can include any sport, but primarily those which require lifting such as weightlifting or pitching, such as baseball. Occasionally other trauma, such as lifting children improperly, car accidents, or sleeping in an awkward position, may also cause a strain, Treatment will depend on the severity and type of strain.

When the deltoid strain is caused by injury, the first step in treatment is to determine how severe the strain is. This can be done by discussing the level of pain the athlete is experiencing combined with how well he is able to move the muscle. The deltoid muscle is located at the shoulder and allows the arm to move both up to the side and forward. It is a major muscle used when playing many sports, making it especially prone to injury.

Any sudden or jerking movement can potentially cause a strain if improperly executed. Blunt trauma, which may occur in sports like football or in an accident, may also cause a strain. Symptoms include tightness of the muscle, soreness, pain when moving, heat in the area of the strain, and trouble lifting the arm to the front or out to the side. In severe cases, the muscle may be torn or ruptured and will require minor rehabilitation to heal properly.


Treatment for a deltoid strain will depend on the severity of the injury. Minor sprains can generally be treated with ice applied to the area to bring down swelling and reduce pain, followed by a full day or two of rest. After this, the muscle can be used slowly and gently. Sports should not be resumed for at least a week after a minor strain or sprain.

More serious strains should usually be seen by a doctor. X-rays may be performed to rule out any possibility of a fracture. Once it is determined that a deltoid strain is the cause of discomfort, the patient may be required to rest the arm for several weeks in order to allow the muscle time to heal itself. Medications for pain may be also prescribed. Once healing has begun, light exercise can be resumed to help re-strengthen the muscle.

In many cases, athletes can regain full function of the muscle with proper rehabilitation. This is more likely with less severe strains and with a long resting period for healing before activities are resumed. If the muscle is used too strenuously during the healing period, the chance for further injury is greatly increased.


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