Runners and athletes who play sports are at risk for straining or tearing the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh. Mild or grade 1 quadriceps pulls cause discomfort and tightness in the muscles, while moderate or grade 2 strains cause a sudden, sharp pain while exercising that prevents walking or other activity, according to SportsInjuryClinic. An individual with a more serious, grade 3 strain experiences a sudden, severe pain in the thigh and immediate swelling. Most quadriceps strains respond well to the RICE protocol--rest, ice, compression and elevation--but recovery time will vary according to the severity of the damage.
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Stop the activity that is causing the pain.
Rest the leg for the next 72 hours unless your health care provider instructs you otherwise. If necessary, use crutches to avoid further injury.
Apply an ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes as soon as possible. Reapply every 2 to 3 hours for at least 24 hours, recommends SportsInjuryClinic. Protect the skin by wrapping a towel around the ice.
Elevate the leg on pillows when you are sitting or lying down to help reduce swelling.
Wrap the affected thigh with an elastic bandage to reduce swelling and protect the injured muscle.
Take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also called NSAIDs, for pain and inflammation as needed. Follow the instructions on the package and consult your health care provider if the medication does not relieve the pain.
Resume training slowly after 72 hours if the pain of a mild strain has resolved. More severe strains may require 10 days to 3 weeks or longer to heal.