Thigh Muscle Strain

Thigh Strain

Article by John Miller

What is a Thigh Strain?

“Pulled Thigh Muscle”

A thigh strain or a “pulled thigh muscle” refers to an injury where the fibres in your quadriceps (thigh) muscles overstretch. Once the fibres overstretch to a certain point, muscle tears occur. These can vary from a minor strain to a full-thickness muscle tear.

The muscles in your thigh include three main groups: the quadriceps (at the front of your leg), the hamstrings (at the back of your leg) and the adductors (inner portion). The lateral aspect of your thigh is predominately a fascial band known as your ITB (Iliotibial Band).


What Causes a Thigh Strain?

Several factors can increase your risk of straining your thigh muscles. The most common include:

  • Muscle tightness
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Muscle imbalances
  • Incorrect exercise technique
  • An inadequate warm-up period
  • History of thigh strain/tear without adequate rehabilitation

What are the Symptoms of a Thigh Strain?

  • Pain during activities that engage the affected thigh muscle, e.g. walking, going up/downstairs, sit to stand, kicking.
  • “Pulling pain” or a tugging sensation with stretching of the affected muscle, e.g. heel to your bottom.
  • You notice thigh tenderness, swelling, or bruising.
  • You experience an audible “pop” or “snap” sensation at the moment of injury. This sensation may indicate a significant 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 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, e.g. walking, running, squatting, hopping and landing.
  • Minimise your chance of re-injury.

Depending on the severity of your thigh strain, the rehabilitation process generally takes up to six weeks. It is vital to complete the entire 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 several things you can do to reduce your risk of developing a thigh strain. These include:

  • Perform an adequate warm-up and dynamic stretching before exercise.
  • Gradually, rather than suddenly, increase your exercise intensity or volume.
  • Monitor your athletic performance and technique.
  • Benefit from regular leg massages.
  • Commit to completing your 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 return to their previous sporting activities. The time frame for responding to your treatment and a full resumption of sport is dependent on the degree of your injury.

It is crucial to complete your entire rehabilitation program as prescribed by your physiotherapist to reduce your risk of complications when returning to your chosen sport and re-injury.

Surgery is rare. But major muscle ruptures can require surgery. For more information, please ask the advice of your physiotherapist or doctor.