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The quadriceps is the large muscle group on the front of your thigh. The quadriceps consists of four muscles that work to straighten your knee. One muscle of the quadriceps also crosses your hip joint, causing bending of your hip as well as straightening your knee. A strain is an injury that may result from overuse or over stretching of a muscle. A quadriceps strain often results from over stretching the quadriceps or allowing too much force to be generated by the muscle.

What are the signs and symptoms of a quadriceps strain?
People often experience pain in the front of their thigh during or immediately after an activity. Pain is usually sharp and some swelling may be present in the area. Extending your hip backward or bending your knee can increase the pain.

What are the risk factors that could lead to a quadriceps strain?
Several factors can lead to a quadriceps strain. Tight quadriceps or imbalances within the four muscles of the quadriceps can lead to a strain. A leg-length discrepancy can also predispose someone to a quadriceps strain.

How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor may palpate (touch) the quadriceps muscle to find the painful areas. A notch (or small indention) may be felt in the muscle. Your doctor may have you straighten your knee against resistance while you are sitting and lying down to see if this reproduces your pain. Bruising may also be present. Diagnostic tests such as x-rays are usually not needed to diagnose a quadriceps strain.

What is the treatment of a quadriceps strain?
Rest, ice, and compression should be initiated as soon as possible after the injury. Walking with crutches for a short period of time may be necessary if the strain is severe.

Active range of motion of the hip and knee is usually recommended as tolerated. Gradually, gentle strengthening of the muscle group should be performed. Your doctor may refer you to physical therapy to learn specific exercises. This is especially important if the strain is severe or if this is a recurrent problem.

How long will it be before I can return to full activity?
The severity of your injury will dictate how quickly you can return to your normal activities. It may take anywhere from 1 week to 3 months to be back to full activity.

How can I prevent a quadriceps strain?
Good flexibility of the quadriceps is important to prevent injury. A proper warm-up and cool-down will also help prevent a quadriceps strain. Also, if pain is felt, do not continue to work through the pain. Stop the activity and ice the area.