The quadriceps muscles group includes four muscles located in the anterior thigh. This muscle group acts to extend the leg while straightening the knee. A pulled or strained quadriceps muscle causes pain in the front of the thigh. A severe pull or muscle tear, causes an abrupt, sudden, acute pain that occurs during activity (often while sprinting). It may be accompanied by swelling or bruises on the thigh.
A pulled quadriceps is often the result of a strength imbalance between the quadriceps and the hamstring. Strong hamstring muscles in the back of the leg and weak quadriceps muscles in the front of the leg can result in a pull or a tear. Such a muscle imbalance is not uncommon among runners, since running tends to work out the hamstrings much more than the quadriceps.
Treatment For immediate relief, follow the R.I.C.E. treatment plan. Rest, Ice, Compression and elevation are the best immediate treatment for all pulls and strains. Once activity is started again, ice the muscle after exercise to reduce any swelling. An anti-inflammatory can be helpful to reduce pain and inflammation. After applying the ice, wrap your thigh in an ACE bandage to keep it compressed.
If running is continued during recovery, it must be easy, without sudden sprints. Pay attention to signs of pain or increased tenderness, and reduce exercise if any develops. Proper stretching of the quadriceps is essential. Stretch gently, but thoroughly. Never force a stretch. A return to activity within two or three weeks is expected.
Prevention The way to prevent this injury by strengthening the quadriceps muscles. Quad extensions, squats, biking and stair climbing are all worthwhile cross training techniques for runners.