Article by John Miller
What is a Thigh Strain?
The muscles in your thigh are made up of three main groups: the quadriceps (at the front of your leg), the hamstrings (at the back of your leg) and the
adductors (at the inside of your leg).
A thigh strain refers to an injury where the fibres in a quadriceps muscles are overstretched. Once the fibers are overstretched to a certain point, muscle
tears occur. These can vary from a minor strain to a full thickness muscle tear.
What Causes a Thigh Strain?
There are a number of factors which can increase your risk of straining your thigh muscles. The most common include:
- Muscle tightness
- Muscle fatigue
- Muscle imbalances
- Incorrect exercise technique
- Inadequate warm up period
- History of thigh strain/tear without adequate rehabilitation
What are the Symptoms of a Thigh Strain?
- Pain during activities which engage the affected thigh muscle, e.g. walking, going up/down stairs, sit to stand, kicking.
- “Pulling pain” or a tugging sensation with stretching of the affected muscle eg heel to bottom.
- Swelling, bruising or thigh tenderness.
- Audible “pop” or snapping sensation at the time of injury, which may indicate a major tear or rupture.
How is a Thigh Strain Diagnosed?
On examination, your physiotherapist will look for signs of a thigh strain. If further assessment is required, an ultrasound or MRI may be used to confirm
the location and severity of the injury.
What is the Treatment for a Thigh Strain?
Your physiotherapy treatment will aim to:
- Reduce pain and inflammation.
- Protect your injury.
- Normalise joint range of motion.
- Strengthen your knee and leg: esp quadriceps (esp VMO) and hamstrings.
- Monitor patellofemoral (knee cap) alignment.
- Normalise your muscle lengths and neurodynamics.
- Improve your proprioception, agility and balance.
- Improve your technique and function eg walking, running, squatting, hopping and landing.
- Minimise your chance of re-injury.
Depending on the severity of your thigh strain, the rehabilitation process generally take up to six weeks. It is important to complete the full treatment
plan as directed by your physiotherapist to reduce the risk of re-injury or ongoing thigh problems.
How to Prevent a Thigh Strain?
There are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of developing a thigh strain. These include:
- Adequate warm-up and stretching prior to exercise or post-exercise.
- A gradual increase in your exercise intensity or volume.
- Monitor your athletic technique.
- Benefit from regular leg massages.
- Complete full rehabilitation programs following any injury to the lower limb.
For more advice, please consult with your sports physiotherapist.
Return to Sport with a Thigh Strain?
The majority of patients generally make a full recovery post-thigh strain and are able to return to their previous sporting activities. The time frame
for returning to a sport is dependent on the degree of your injury.
It is very important to complete your full rehabilitation program as prescribed by your physiotherapist to reduce your risk of complications when you return
to your chosen sport and re-injury.
Surgery is rarely required except where major thigh muscle rupture occurs. For more information, please ask the advice of your physiotherapist.
Common Treatments for Thigh Strains
Early Injury Treatment
Avoid the HARM Factors
Soft Tissue Injury? What are the Healing Phases?
What to do after a Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain?
Acupuncture and Dry Needling
Sub-Acute Soft Tissue Injury Treatment
Balance Enhancement Exercises
Proprioception & Balance Exercises
Agility & Sport-Specific Exercises
Soft Tissue Massage
Brace or Support
Electrotherapy & Local Modalities
Supportive Taping & Strapping
Helpful Products for Thigh Strains
Other Knee-Related Conditions
FAQs about Thigh Strains
Common Physiotherapy Treatment Techniques
What is Pain?
Physiotherapy & Exercise
When Should Diagnostic Tests Be Performed?
Massage Styles and their Benefits
What Causes Post-Exercise Muscular Pain?
Can Kinesiology Taping Reduce Your Swelling and Bruising?
Heat Packs. Why does heat feel so good?
How Can You Prevent a Future Leg Injury?
How Much Treatment Will You Need?
Post-Run Soreness: Should You Be Concerned?
Sports Injury? What to do? When?
What are the Common Massage Therapy Techniques?
What are the Early Warning Signs of an Injury?
What is a TENS Machine?
What is Chronic Pain?
What is Nerve Pain?
What is Sports Physiotherapy?
What's the Benefit of Stretching Exercises?
When Can You Return to Sport?
Why Kinesiology Tape Helps Reduce Swelling and Bruising Quicker