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Pain in the Quadriceps

Pain in the Quadriceps
Runners can suffer from overuse injuries, including quadriceps tendonitis and quadriceps strains. Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

Pain in your quadriceps, the group of large muscles at the front of your thigh that are responsible for straightening your knee, can literally stop you in your tracks. Although quadriceps pain most often results from a simple overuse or sports injury, it can sometimes indicate a serious underlying medical condition. MayoClinic.com advises seeing your doctor if you have a cramping or "charley horse" sensations along with a leg that is reddened, swollen and warm to the touch.

Quadriceps Strain

With a quadriceps strain, muscle fibers are stretched or torn. According to Bodybuilding For You, the injury most often results from activities that require explosive leg movement, such as sprinting, jumping, kicking or performing intense leg presses. Intelihealth says that a grade I injury is a mild strain in which muscle fibers are stretched, resulting in tenderness and soreness; grade II causes some tearing of fibers, loss of strength and mobility and mild swelling. With grade III, the muscle is ruptured, causing intense pain, swelling and discoloration. Minor strains can be treated with the R.I.C.E. method: rest, icing the leg for 20 minutes every few hours, compression with an elastic bandage and elevation. If you have severe pain or swelling, discoloration, difficulty walking, or heard a "pop" at the time of the injury, Intelihealth advises seeing your doctor.

Quadriceps Tendonitis

Quadriceps tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendon that connects the quadriceps muscles to the knee and is common among active people. Symptoms include aching or burning pain, particularly when you move the knee, swelling around the knee where the quadriceps muscle attaches, and stiffness. According to Itendonitis, quadriceps tendonitis should be treated by resting from the activity that caused it and icing the affected area. You can take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications for pain as long as you have no conditions precluding their use. Although mild cases of tendonitis can be treated at home, see your doctor if the pain interferes with daily activities for more than a few days despite self-care.


Claudication, often a symptom of peripheral artery disease, is a painful circulatory disorder. Usually noticeable while exercising, claudication can affect you when you are at rest as the condition develops. The primary symptom is aching or burning pain in your legs or arms. MayoClinic.com notes that severe claudication can cause bluish toes that are cold to the touch; you also might develop sores. Your doctor can diagnose claudication by checking the blood pressure in your ankles and arms; sometimes, ultrasound and MRI are used. Claudication is treated with aspirin, statin drugs and anticoagulants. Surgery is sometimes required. See your doctor if you have pain in your legs and arms when you exercise.

Deep Venous Thrombosis

Deep venous thrombosis is a condition in which a blood clot forms in a deep vein. MayoClinic.com says that there are no symptoms in almost half of cases. You might feel pain in your leg that starts with a cramping sensation, and your leg might become reddened, swollen and warm to the touch. See your doctor if you have symptoms of deep venous thrombosis. Although many clots disappear on their own, MayoClinic.com warns that a clot can travel to your lungs, causing a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Seek emergency care if you think you have a pulmonary embolism. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain that worsens when you cough, coughing up blood, feeling dizzy and fainting.

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