The quadriceps are a group of four powerful muscles located on the front of the upper thigh that work together with the hip flexors and hamstrings to extend and flex the leg. Quad injuries are among the most common (and treatable) type of athletic/sports-related injury. However, a quad strain can be extremely painful and may take weeks to fully recover with limited activity.
WHAT CAUSES QUAD PAIN?
The quad muscles cover the front of the thigh and are often injured because they cross two joints: the hip and the knee. Quadriceps pain can frequently occur in athletes who participate in kicking and running sports. Since the quad muscles are a strong muscle group involved in supporting the body’s movement while upright, a pulled quad muscle can often occur.
WHAT IS A QUAD STRAIN?
The quadriceps are particularly active during sprinting, jumping, hopping, or kicking. Too much tension can cause the muscle fibers to tear. This can be the result of either excessive force or repetitive motion. This tearing can happen gradually over time due to repetitive motion, or it can happen quickly when excessive force is placed on the muscle group.
SYMPTOMS OF A QUAD STRAIN
Aside from pain, a quad strain may also display the following symptoms:
- Pain and swelling in the thigh
- Visible inflammation or bruising
- Difficulty bending and straightening the knee
- Leg weakness and reduced range of motion
- Sharp pain when running, jumping, or kicking
HOW LONG DOES A QUAD STRAIN TAKE TO HEAL?
Estimated recovery time for a quad strain is dependent on the severity of the strain. The clinical grading system for most strains, including quad strains, includes three categories:
Grade 1: Mild
Grade 2: Moderate
Grade 3: Severe
Minor to moderate quad strains will usually heal on their own, given enough time. Recovery for minor to moderate quad strains is usually one to three weeks with limited activity.
If the strained quad is severe, it may require four to eight weeks to achieve full recovery.
HOW TO TREAT AND PREVENT A QUAD STRAIN
Historically, your health care provider will likely recommend rest and reduced activity. Following the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) can help reduce swelling and pain. Your doctor may also suggest using over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medication for moderate muscle strains. For more severe quad strains, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist to help safely regain strength and mobility while recovering.
As powerful as they are, the quads are still vulnerable to injuries if they are neglected. Some steps you can take to avoid a quad injury include warming up properly before any activity and taking time to cool down and gently stretch your quads after exercise.
Strengthening your quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors can also help reduce your risk of injury. Stronger muscles are more resistant to stress and can provide more support to your joints during activity.
EXERCISES FOR QUAD PAIN
If you’ve recently recovered from a quad injury, or are just looking for exercises to help reduce tension, below are a couple gentle stretches you can try to loosen your quads and improve range of motion.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
- Begin in a half kneeling position.
- Engage the glutes to tilt your pelvis backward, flattening your low back and stretching the front of the hip.
- If a greater stretch is needed, lightly press your hips forward keeping your back flat and body upright.
- Complete 3 sets of 1-minute holds.
Foam Rolling Quads
- Balance on your elbows in a plank position with your quadriceps on the foam roller.
- Brace your core and avoid arching or rounding your lumbar spine.
- Roll from just above the kneecaps to the top of the thighs.
- Scan for tender areas. Hold and oscillate over those areas until pain diminishes.
- To place a greater emphasizes on one leg cross the back leg over the other leg or just simply shift your body weight to one side.
- To isolate the medial quadriceps, widen your legs and rotate your feet out.
- To isolate the lateral quadriceps, bring your legs together, touch the toes and rotate your heels out.
- Complete 10 passes in each position.
- Repeat the previous instructions.
AIRROSTI QUAD STRAIN DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT, AND PAIN RELIEF
Airrosti can help rapidly relieve your quad pain in an average of 3-4 visits, allowing you to remain healthy and active.
Our skilled providers can diagnose the cause of pain and treat it directly, typically in as few as three visits (based on patient-reported outcomes). In most cases, you can remain active during treatment. Call us at 800-404-6050 or click here to schedule your appointment today.
Reviewed by Casey Crisp, Doctor of Chiropractic
Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program. If you experience any numbness, tingling or reproduction of your symptoms, please contact your doctor.