Quadriceps Muscle Strain|Diagnosis and Physiotherapy Treatment

Quadricep muscle strain occurs when there is an acute tear in the quadriceps muscle which is located in the thigh region. It can occur when the muscle is put through excessive stress such as sudden contraction and extension, resulting in the tearing of various parts of the thigh muscles.

Depending on the intensity of the muscle tears, there are several treatment options, care, and physiotherapy for it that can be engaged in for a speedy recovery from the pain in the quadriceps muscle.

Quadriceps Muscle Strain Different Grades

The intensity of the injury or tear can be categorized into different grades. They are:

Grade 1 is when there is little to no strain and the quadriceps muscle pain is very mild. There is usually very mild discomfort and may result in difficulty in walking and running. There is usually no need for rest or additional care and can be cured with mild rest in between activities. There is no need for medical intervention in this grade.

Grade II is when there is sharp pain when someone performs an activity such as running or jogging. This can also cause pain and swelling in the quads region and make it difficult to bend the knees or have sharp pain.

Grade III is the most severe type of pain when the person is unable to move or engage their legs. The pain is severe in the thighs and the leg region and causes great discomfort while trying to walk. There can also be significant bruising around the region as well.

Quadriceps Muscle Strain Causes

Physical activities are some of the most common causes of the injury, where a sudden impact or contraction and expansion of the muscles causes strain and results in the injury of it. This can be caused by high-performance athletes such as runners, marathon runners, and other forms of high-contact sports.

Some other reasons can be engaging in lifting heavy objects that cause stress on the quad muscles, impact by external factors such as accidents and impacts. These can cause injury in the region.

In some cases, one can suffer from an injury due to medical conditions such as gout, obesity, and arthritis as well.

Quadriceps Muscle Strain Symptoms

The earliest symptom to look out for is any kind of pain, sharp tug in the thighs and legs. This could mean that there is an injury in the thighs that need to be cared for. If the injury is intense, one can feel a sharp pain in the thigh, and an inability to engage the legs in activities such as running, walking, jogging, and doing other physical activities.

Some other symptoms are inability to stretch the knee, stiffness in the legs, swelling, and bruising in the thighs and related regions. Sharp pain while making contact with the thigh, while standing up, or applying pressure on the thighs and feet are signs of a muscle tear.

Quadriceps Muscle Strain Diagnosis

The medical professional may conduct a physical examination of the region to spot swelling and bruises in the region. They can also ask you to perform some exercises such as extending the legs, bending knees, and standing on your feet. These activities can serve as markers of the intensity of the injury.

Blood tests and imaging scans such as X-rays and MRI may be performed to locate the injury and understand the intensity and damage to the muscle and tissues in the region.

The doctors may also perform something called Ely’s Test, which assesses the rectus femoris spasticity or tightness. The patient lies prone and the therapist stands next to the patient, at the side of the leg that is to be tested. One hand is placed on the lower back, the other hand holds the leg at the heel.  Then flex the knee passively, the heel should touch the buttocks. For comparison, test both sides. The test is positive if the heel cannot touch the buttocks, and the hip of the tested side rises from the table, the patient feels pain or tingling in the back or legs.

Quadriceps Muscle Strain Treatment

One of the most common treatment plans is to administer anti-inflammatory drugs and medication that helps reduce swelling and pain. It also allows the muscle to heal as there is an increase in blood circulation and reduces the pain.

In some cases, surgery may be performed when there is severe damage to the muscles and the tissues. However this is performed only in rare cases and often rest, mediation, and physiotherapy help heal the muscle injury.

The RICE method - Rest, Ince, Compression, and Elevation can help reduce the pain and intensity of the injury by combining cooling of the muscles and p[riveting the tissue from further damage. It can also reduce stress and alleviate pain.

Quadriceps Muscle Strain Physiotherapy Treatment

One of the most important processes is the RICE method which can help reduce the severity of the injury to a large extent in the region. It can also help reduce pain and increase mobility and aid the reverie process in the future.

Transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS) can be used to decrease pain and swelling as it can help reduce inflammation, and pain, and desensitize nerve fibers. It can also aid in the strengthening of muscles.

Mobilization can also be performed where there is gentle pressure applied to the region to alleviate pain and increase blood circulation and reduce the stress on the nerves and muscles. This can help provide relief from the pain as the muscle is engaged.

Stretching exercises need to be performed with care to ensure that the muscles do not become stiff and can perform well. This can include simple exercises such as gradually increasing the degree of straightening the knees, and bending the legs as well.

Isotonic quadriceps muscle exercises done gradually can help strengthen the muscles in the legs and ensure that they are less prone to injury.

Simple warm-up and cool-down exercises for quadriceps muscles can also aid in the healing process and ensure a soft transition from the injury to performance levels.

Quadriceps Muscle Strain Recovery Phase

 It is important to ensure that the muscles are not put through too much stress during the recovery phase. Here, one can engage in the various forms of exercises mentioned above, at varying intensities based on consultation with the physical therapist and doctors to achieve the optimum level of recovery.

RICE method of recovery is also very important as it allows the muscles to heal faster as there is less stress on them and ensures that they can recover.

In this phase, there may be pain and swelling, but sees a consistent decrease in pain and intensity of the injury. It is vital that the person does not engage in activities that may cause harm to them.

Quadriceps Muscle Strain Prevention Tips

  • The Injury occurs in the thigh region due to extreme or prolonged stress on the muscles
  • Ensure to engage in warmup  and cool down while engaging in physical activities
  • Ensure to be well hydrated and have eaten good meals
  • Do not apply sudden pressure on the region
  • Engage in the physical conditioning of the region 
  • Regular physiotherapy can ensure that the muscles are strengthened and are less prone to injury