One of the most common injuries of your leg is straining of the quad muscle in your leg. A strain is a partial tear or complete tear of the muscle. When the quadriceps muscles experience this strain, it is referred to as strained quad. This causes pain in the front of your thigh in which the muscle has been injured and torn.
People of any age can experience strained quad. However, people who engage themselves in a lot of athletic sports such as sprinting, running, hurdling or sports that involve kicking such as rugby or football, usually suffer more from strained quad. The sudden burst of speed and acceleration and the sudden contraction of the quad muscles can cause straining of these muscles.
How Long Does a Strained Quad Take to Heal?
How fast your strained quad muscles will heal or the speed of your recovery will completely depend on the grade or level of the injury. If the injury is not serious, it will not take too long for the strained quad to heal completely. However, if the injury is severe, it will take some time. Usually, grade 1 strained quads take about 10 days for recovery. Rest, first aid, ice pack and bandage to control swelling will help in the recovery. Also, if you follow the exercises, it will aid in the healing process.
On the other hand, if the injury is serious, it can take as long as 3 months or sometimes even more to completely heal the condition. Too severely strained quads may also require surgery for healing completely.
Here is a brief discussion on the healing time of quad muscle, depending on the grade of severity.
Healing Time For Grade 1 Strained Quad:
Grade 1 is a minor condition in which only a slight percentage of the quad muscle is pulled or strained. In case of grade 1 strained quad or injury level, it usually takes just a few days to a couple of weeks for the condition to be improved. It does not require any consultation with the physician and can be healed by its own through home care and remedies. Within 4 to 6 weeks, the condition can be completely healed.
Healing Time for Grade 2 Strained Quad:
If the quad muscle strain is of grade 2, it would mean that there is partial tearing of the muscle. In this case, usually the signs and symptoms take a few months for complete healing. Also, the person may require visiting the rehabilitation centre for the healing process. Within about 8 to 10 weeks, moderate to mild pulled quad muscles are treated completely.
Healing Time Grade 3 of Strained Quad:
This stage is considered to be the most severe stage of quad muscle straining in which there is a complete tear or rupture of the muscles. Medical intervention and surgical treatment is a must in this stage. Also, the signs and symptoms may last for quite some time even after the treatment. Sometimes, the signs and symptoms and the discomfort may last for a lifetime.
Signs and Symptoms of Strained Quads
As mentioned above, strained quad muscles can experience three levels of straining from mild (Grade 1) to severe (Grade 3). Whatever the strain level is, the common signs and symptoms that one will experience are –
- Pain – a general ache, as well as a sharp pain when using the quad muscles or the thigh muscles to move or when stretching or flexing the muscles
- Bruise if blood vessels are torn
- Loss of strength
- Limited mobility
- Inability to bear weight in the injured or strained area.
The signs and symptoms of grade 3 strained quads are very prominent and obvious and cannot be overlooked or mistaken. The pain is sudden and extremely sharp. There is bruising and swelling almost immediately.
However, for grade 1 strained quads, it is quite difficult for the athlete to understand the injury. In the beginning it is just a mild discomfort with a little pain and twinge in the front of the thighs. He or she may also feel some tightness in the thighs. As none of the symptoms are too severe, the athlete usually continues to play with such a condition. This often worsens the condition, forcing the muscles to work further, even in that condition causing the injury to be more serious.
Causes of Strained Quad Muscle
Strained quad muscle is one of the most common and easily experienced injuries in athletes. When an athlete tries to accelerate, the quadriceps muscles are most likely to experience tear. This is because; acceleration puts these muscles under more force than what these muscles can actually withstand. At this stage, the tendons and the fibres of the quadriceps muscles start to tear away from the bones.
There are some triggers or conditions that can increase the chances of straining of the quad muscles. These are –
- Overuse of these muscles
- Fatigued muscles
- Inadequate warming up of the muscles before working them out.
Another reason behind strained quad muscles is an imbalance between the quad muscles and hamstrings, which is a common condition for many runners and athletes.
When the hamstring muscles, which are located at the back of the legs, are stronger than the quad muscles, which are located at the front of the legs, especially in the thighs, this imbalance can cause straining. This is quite usual for the athletes like runners as running strengthens the hamstring muscles and not the quad muscles as much.
When there is an awkward fall, jump or landing after running or other acceleration, there can be a sudden pull in the quad muscles that it cannot withstand. It can then experience a strain or tear.
Initial Treatment or First Aid Treatment for Strained Quad Muscles
What most of the patients of quad muscles straining do is to continue playing or doing other activities. Regardless of how strong the pain is, if there is an unusual tightness or a sudden twinge, one must stop the activity at once and see a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will be able to evaluate the cause of the pain and the injury. If the cause of the pain and the injury is not diagnosed at the earliest, it will gradually become a chronic condition.
When you feel any pain, swelling or discomfort in your thighs, the immediate first aid treatments for that would include –
- Avoiding any activity that involves the lower leg and requires power and strength.
- Resting as long as the injury is not treated.
- For the first 48 to 72 hours, apply ice pack on the thighs or the injured quad muscles, 3 to 4 times a day, for 15 to 20 minutes.
- For the next 48 to 72 hours, apply moist heat on the area 3 to 4 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Keeping your leg elevated as much as possible, with the help of a cushion or a pillow.
- Usage of a bandage for minimizing swelling in the injured area.
- Also, pain killers like acetaminophen, naproxen, ibuprofen, aspirin etc. can relieve the pain.
Exercise to Treat Strained Quad
There are some exercises that will help to tone up the quad muscles and to make them stronger, so that they can balance with the hamstring muscles. These exercises are –
- Full squat exercise
- Wall sit quad exercise
- Spin and cycling classes
- Weighted step ups
- Elliptical trainer exercises
- Stair running
- Climbing stairs
- Cross training.
All these exercises will help to maintain a workout routine that is balanced and thereby, prevent or reduce the possibility of straining in your quad muscles.
It is always important that you warm your muscles up, before working them out. Pushing only as much as the muscles can take is crucial. Also, if there is a strain or pull, in case of any discomfort and pain, it is always a good idea to rest and wait for a few days for the condition to improve. Pushing it further by expecting to heal automatically and to ignore the discomfort and pain is never a good idea. It will only worsen the condition.
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