A quadriceps strain can also be called a pulled quads muscle strained thigh.  A quadriceps strain is a common injury that can occur when jogging.

Sometimes muscle strains can feel like a mild ache to a severe pain or even being unable to run or walk. The quadriceps can become injured when the muscle is overloaded.

Recovery from a Quadriceps Strain or Pulled muscle

A thigh strain or quadriceps strain is essentially a small tear in one of the four quadriceps muscles located the front of your thigh.

There are four muscles in the quadriceps group vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius and your rectus femoris muscles.

Rectus femoris is the one that is most commonly injured as it passes over both your hip and your knee joint.

Muscle strains are categorised as Grade I, II, or III. A small strain is classified as a Grade I tear, whereas a complete rupture, or tear, is classified as a Grade III tear. Grade II tears are partial ruptures or tears. Severe Grade II and Grade III tears will cause loss of normal muscle function and your will probably see bruising around the area of your injury.

After a Grade I strain, it is possible to continue running after you are injured. Grade I injuries tend to be mild and they mostly fully heal. With appropriate rest and physiotherapy rehabilitation, you can reduce your healing time of your quadriceps strain.

A Grade II or III strain will cause your severe pain so that you will have to stop running. Grade II tears can heal with physiotherapy rehabilitation, although your healing time is going to be longer. Grade III tears usually require surgery and physiotherapy rehabilitation for full recovery.

 How do you know you’ve got a Quadriceps Strain or Pulled muscle?

  • You will feel a sudden sharp pain at the front part of your thigh
  • You will feel swelling and a bruise may form in your thigh.
  • You may also feel a lump or muscle spasm in your thigh

In the case of a Grade III tear, a gap may form in your quads muscle and you can’t straighten your knee.

A quadriceps strain is common during running or jumping movements, especially during sudden movements or if you are starting and stopping quite suddenly, which can occur in some sports.  However, you could just as easily pull your quadriceps while weightlifting, working out in your garden or falling over into a hole.

What will increase your risk of straining your quadriceps muscle?

You will increase your risk of straining your quadriceps by not warming up adequately before you run.

Hip flexor or quadriceps muscle tightness can increase your risk of muscle strain.

Not activating or weakness in your gluteal or buttock muscle will overload your quadriceps predisposing you to injury.

Pushing yourself too quickly like running too fast when you haven’t trained for that activity.

Performing exercises that your quadriceps muscles are not used to or haven’t performed previously.

Treatment for Quadriceps strain

Your City Physiotherapy physiotherapist can assess the severity of your muscle strain and give you appropriate treatment. If required, we can refer you for scans to determine the exact type of strain you have.

For a Grade I or small Grade II injury, the first course of treatment after your sprain will involve PRICE.  This means Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Protect. Initially, you may choose to “protect” the injury site by resting your quadriceps. This might involve using crutches to offload your quads during walking. Using a compression bandage to protect your quads and resting from running or other activities that may have caused your injury will assist.  Do not stretch vigorously during this time.

Rest. Resting means toning down from your regular exercise activity or any activity that involves using your quadriceps -running, weightlifting, jumping or even excessively bending your knees.

Ice. Apply ice to the painful region. The rule for icing is to apply ice for no longer than twenty minutes each hour. Place a towel directly against the skin and the ice on top of the towel, especially if you are using the gel type of icepack. A bag of frozen peas is great for a muscle strain as it will mould to the shape of your leg.

Compression bandages help prevent and decrease any swelling. More swelling will increase your pain and slowdown your healing response.

Elevation. Compression and elevation may not be fully possible if the injury is located higher into the thigh. If there is swelling in the lower leg, then elevating the leg may be helpful.

Your City Physiotherapy Physiotherapist will perform some pain and swelling reduction manual therapy treatment and give you further advice on how to progress from the initial phase of recovery. Other physiotherapy treatments may consist of sports taping, dry needling, exercise therapy and other modalities depending on the assessment of each muscle strain.  Give us a call on 8212 4886 or check out our website for further information about City Physio www.cityphysiotherapy.com.au