Diagnosing and treating Quadriceps strains and injuries

quad strain

Diagnosing and treating Quadriceps strains and injuries

If I had a dollar for every time I saw a new patient who had been self treating a “quad strain” for months when the pain is actually from something completely different, I could be retired right now.

Your thigh and quadriceps might seem like a straightforward area to self diagnose when you’re feeling pain, but it’s actually a rather complicated musculoskeletal zone.

Without treatment from a sports physio or musculoskeletal specialist, thigh pain can linger and deteriorate into a more serious ailment. Thankfully, with the right diagnosis and treatment, your thigh pain is unlikely to become chronic.

Are my thighs and quadriceps the same thing?

No. Your thigh includes the quadriceps femoris, but the quads alone are not the entire thigh. Your thigh is actually a region made up of 3 main groups of muscles:

  • The quadriceps (located at the front of your leg)
  • The adductors (on the inside area of your leg)
  • The hamstrings (at the rear of your leg towards your glutes)

The quadriceps is comprised of four muscles that connect just above your knee:

  • The Vastus Lateralis (located to the outside of your thigh)
  • The Vastus Intermedius (located in the centre of your thigh)
  • The Rectus Femoris (smaller and located at the front of the thigh covering the Vastus Intermedius)
  • The Vastus Medialis (to the inside of your thigh)

What are the signs of a quadriceps strain and how is it treated?

As with most muscular and tendon tears, thigh strains are divided into three grades:

  • Grade one – the symptoms of a grade 1 tear may not be present until after the activity is over. It can commonly feel like a thigh cramp with associated tightness and mild pain when the muscles are stretched or contracted.
  • Grade two – you will feel immediate pain during stretch and muscle contraction worse than a grade 1 injury and is usually sore to touch.
  • Grade three – is a serious injury where the muscle is completely torn. You will feel an immediate burning or stabbing pain in your thigh that will stop you being able to walk without pain and there may even be a large lump of muscle tissue above a depression accompanied by bruising.

Your thigh is a prime area for referred pain

What is referred pain? Pain is a continually evolving science that we don’t know everything about yet. Referred pain is any pain felt at a location in your body that is not the direct source of the pain.

Have you ever visited a physio for a sore shoulder and the first place they started looking at was your neck? That’s referred pain.

Due to your thigh’s proximity to the groin, pelvis and role in ITB function, it is a prime candidate to feel referred pain from any number of local regions.

Thigh pain can also be the manifestation of:

  • Sciatica type symptoms – your femoral nerve can refer pain to the front of your thigh
  • Hip joint conditions such as arthritis
  • Meralgia Paresthetica – when the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve becomes impinged
  • Lower back pain
  • Vascular problems such as a deep venous thrombosis
  • And rarely; a fracture to the femur bone

As a musculoskeletal physio we have years of clinical experience diagnosing and treating thigh injuries of all kinds along with diagnosing causes of referred pain to the thigh. After a detailed clinical assessment of your injury, biomechanics, sporting technique and muscle coordination, we will devise a rehabilitation program tailored to your needs.

Give us a call on (02) 8964 4086 or book an appointment and info@fixio.com.au


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