A strained quad can be as minor an injury as a microtear in the fibers of the thigh muscles or as major as a total rupture of the muscles. The speed of your recovery depends on the severity of your injury, so if you have done serious damage to your quadriceps, expect your healing process to take some time. However mild or significant your strain, you will recover fastest if you obey the standard instructions for first aid: rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Rest your strained quad as completely as possible for the first 24 hours after your injury. Putting any pressure or tension on the torn muscle during the first days can worsen the damage. Use crutches if your doctor advises you to do so.
Wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply it to your injury immediately. Hold it there for 10 to 20 minutes. During your first day of recovery, apply ice once every hour. For the following two or three days, apply ice once every three or four hours. Don't put ice packs directly against the skin.
Wrap your thigh with a compression bandage to help reduce swelling. Talk to your doctor about how long you should continue wearing the bandage.
Elevate your leg above the level of your heart for as much of the first day as possible. This helps prevent additional swelling. Ask your doctor how often you should elevate your leg after the first day.
Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to further limit swelling and reduce your pain. Continue to rest your quad while on anti-inflammatories -- they mask the symptoms of your injury, but they don't repair the muscle.
Perform stretches and strengthening exercises as advised by your physical therapist. Stretch until you feel sensation but not pain. If an exercise hurts, don't do it. Don't return to stretching or exercise until the pain from the injury has subsided and your doctor or physical therapist gives you permission.
Apply a heat pack to your quad before exercising or stretching it to warm up the muscle and increase its flexibility. This makes your stretches more effective, so you recover range of motion faster. It also lessens your chance of re-injuring yourself.
Wait to return to your normal activities until your quad is no longer painful. If walking hurts, take smaller steps until you can walk without pain. Avoid any exercise or motion that hurts your thigh. Pain is a sign that you are applying pressure to the strain, which slows your healing process and can worsen your injury.
Begin running, playing sports or lifting weights when your pain is gone. Return to activity slowly and carefully. Gradually build the duration and intensity of your workouts and activities as you regain strength in your leg.
Things You'll Need
Ice packs and towel
Follow all instructions from your doctor and physical therapist while you heal. Recovery can take 10 days to more than three months. Particularly severe quad strains can require surgery.
Don't push yourself to stretch or strengthen your quad faster than your muscle can bear. Until your injury has had some time to heal, rest is much more beneficial than exercise.