Muscle Strains of the Thigh

A muscle strain (muscle pull or tear) is a common injury, particularly among people who participate in sports.

The thigh has three sets of strong muscles: the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh, the quadriceps muscles in the front, and the adductor muscles on the inside. The quadriceps muscles and hamstring muscles work together to straighten (extend) and bend (flex) the leg. The adductor muscles pull the legs together.

The hamstring and quadriceps muscle groups are particularly at risk for muscle strains because they cross both the hip and knee joints. They are also used for high-speed activities, such as track and field events (running, hurdles, long jump), football, basketball, and soccer.

Muscle strains usually happen when a muscle is stretched beyond its limit, tearing the muscle fibers. They frequently occur near the point where the muscle joins the tough, fibrous connective tissue of the tendon. A similar injury occurs if there is a direct blow to the muscle. Muscle strains in the thigh can be quite painful.

Once a muscle strain occurs, the muscle is vulnerable to reinjury. It is important to let the muscle heal properly and to follow preventive guidelines from your doctor.

Symptoms

A person who experiences a muscle strain in the thigh will frequently describe a popping or snapping sensation as the muscle tears. Pain is sudden and may be severe. The area around the injury may be tender to the touch, with visible bruising if blood vessels are also broken.

Treatment

Most muscle strains can be treated with the RICE protocol. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Rest. Take a break from the activity that caused the strain. Your physician may recommend that you use crutches to avoid putting weight on the leg.

Ice. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Use cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day.

Compression. To prevent additional swelling, lightly wrap the injured area in a soft bandage or ace wrap.

Elevation. To minimize swelling, raise your leg up higher than your heart.

Your Wisconsin Bone & Joint orthopedic surgeon may recommend a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen for pain relief. As the pain and swelling subside, physical therapy will help improve range of motion and strength. The muscle should be at full strength and pain-free before you return to sports. This will help prevent additional injury.

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