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Thigh Strain Treatment and Rehabilitation

A thigh strain or quadriceps muscle strain can vary from very mild to severe. We outline immediate first aid and some simple rehabilitation programs depending on whether the injury is a grade 1,2 or 3.

For information only. We recommend seeking professional advice before beginning and rehabilitation program.

Grade 1 thigh strain rehabilitation

Initial treatment - Day 1

The following guidelines are for information purposes only. We recommend seeking professional advice before starting any rehabilitation. Rest and apply cold therapy to the thigh as soon as possible for 15 minutes at a time. Repeat this every 2-3 hours.

Do not apply ice directly to the skin or you could get ice burns. Wear a compression support all the time to help reduce swelling.

Stage 2 - Days 2-5

If pain-free, start to stretch the quad muscles gently. After 48 hours, sports massage can be applied very gently to start with and see how the injury responds afterwards and the following day. Start to strengthen the muscle again, gently to start with and only if this is completely pain-free.

Stage 3 - Days 6 onwards

Continue with stretching, strengthening and sports massage. Return to training when you have no pain on any of the exercises, or day-to-day activities. Start off very gently and gradually increase running speed, and intensity of other activities such as kicking and changing direction.

Grade 2 thigh strain rehabilitation

Immediate treatment - Days 1-4

Stop play immediately, don't attempt to play on. Apply cold therapy straight away, for 15 minutes at a time, every 2-3 hours. Apply a compression bandage. Rest with the leg elevated. Use crutches if necessary.

Stage 2 - Days 5-12

Return to full weight bearing if you haven't already. Start to gently stretch the quad muscles, provided it is comfortable to do so. Hold stretches for 20-30 seconds and repeat three times. Do this 3-5 times a day. Sports massage can be used from day 4 onwards. Once it is comfortable to do so, start gentle strengthening exercises.

Stage 3 - Days 13-21

Continue with sports massage and stretching exercises. Gradually increase the intensity of strengthening exercises. Start to introduce activities such as cycling and gentle jogging. Apply heat if the muscle feels stiff - 15 minutes at a time before activity. Return to gentle training once all day-to-day and above exercises are pain free and you have range of motion equal to the other side.

Grade 3 thigh strain rehabilitation

Immediate treatment - Days 1-7

Seek medical attention immediately. Apply cold therapy for 15 minutes at a time, every 2-3 hours for the first 48 hours. Use crutches. Use a compression bandage and rest with the leg elevated.

Stage 2 - Days 8-14

Generally with a injury this severe, all treatment should be directed by a sports injury professional and should include stretching exercises, sports massage (after the acute phase has passed). Ultrasound may be used and gentle strengthening exercises can begin for example static or isomatric contractions.

Stage 3 - Weeks 3-6

Strengthening exercises are the main feature of this stage of treatment. Increase the difficulty and intensity of exercises as pain allows. Continue with stretching exercises. Continue with sports massage. Wear a thigh support or heat retainer to support the leg and improve blood supply. Use heat before exercises.