Lunges are popular for toning and strengthening your legs, including your quadriceps, a muscle that extends from your hips to your knees. A muscle imbalance, neglecting to warm up before doing lunges, overusing your leg muscles or exercising them while they're fatigued, all make you susceptible to a quadriceps strain. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a pulled quadriceps is essential for a quick recovery.
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First-Degree Quadriceps Strain
If you're doing lunges and experience minimal tearing and stretching of the muscle fibers, you've most likely fallen victim to a first-degree quadriceps strain. You might experience tightness, spasms and tenderness in the front of your upper leg. Although bending the knee of the affected leg and moving your thigh forward and back might cause mild pain, the discomfort might not always be severe enough that you must stop exercising.
Second-Degree Quadriceps Strain
A second-degree pulled quad muscle can be recognized by a sudden sharp pain that stops you in your tracks. The muscle fibers are partially torn and the pain is more severe than that of a first-degree strain. The muscle is weak and unable to withstand much resistance. Pressing on the affected area with your hand induces pain, as does bending and extending your knee and moving your thigh forward and back. An indentation or lump might appear at the site of the pulled muscle, and after one or more days, bruising might be visible.
Third-Degree Quadriceps Strain
If you hear or feel a pop or snap in the front of your thigh and experience a sudden, intense, debilitating pain, you're most likely dealing with a third-degree quadriceps strain. This is the worst-case scenario, because the muscle is completely torn. The pain is severe and paired with immediate swelling of the area. Within 24 hours you'll notice bruising and you'll need crutches to walk. Surgery may be needed to repair the muscle fibers.
Things to Consider
Regardless of the severity of the pulled muscle, initial treatment usually includes rest, icing of the muscle, compression and elevation. A doctor might recommend taking medications to relieve the pain, and once the pain subsides, he might suggest doing stretching and strengthening exercise to restore muscle flexibility and strength. A first-degree strain can take anywhere from 10 to 21 days to heal. Give a second-degree strain one to two months to heal, and count three months or longer for full recovery for third-degree strain.