Quadriceps / Thighs / Upper Leg

Anatomy

The quadriceps femoris (Latin for "four-headed [muscle] of the femur"), also called simply the quadriceps, quadriceps extensor, or quads, is a large muscle group that includes the four prevailing muscles on the front of the thigh. It is the great extensor muscle of the knee, forming a large fleshy mass which covers the front and sides of the femur. It is the strongest and leanest muscle in the human body.

It is subdivided into four separate portions or 'heads', which have received distinctive names:

Rectus femoris occupies the middle of the thigh, covering most of the other three quadriceps muscles. It originates on the ilium. It is named from its straight course.

The other three lie deep to rectus femoris and originate from the body of the femur, which they cover from the trochanters to the condyles:

Vastus lateralis is on the lateral side of the femur (i.e. on the outer side of the thigh).

Vastus medialis is on the medial side of the femur (i.e. on the inner part thigh).

Vastus intermedius lies between vastus lateralis and vastus medialis on the front of the femur (i.e. on the top or front of the thigh).

All four parts of the quadriceps muscle attach to the patella (knee cap) via the quadriceps tendon. All four quadriceps are powerful extensors of the knee joint. They are crucial in walking, running, jumping and squatting. Because rectus femoris attaches to the ilium, it is also a flexor of the hip. This action is also crucial to walking or running as it swings the leg forward into the ensuing step. In strength training, the quadriceps is trained in isolation with the leg extension exercise, as well as a part of several other lower body exercises.

Be-Your-Own Therapist Home Treatment

If your leg problem does not require an evaluation by a doctor, you may be able to use home treatment to help relieve pain, swelling, stiffness or muscle cramps.

Rest and protect a stiff or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.

Ice will reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice or cold packs immediately to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.

For the first 48 hours, avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, or alcoholic beverages.

After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat and begin gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and maintain flexibility. Some experts recommend alternating between heat and cold treatments.

Compression, or wrapping the sore area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help decrease swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, as this can cause more swelling below the area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to use a wrap for longer than 48 to 72 hours; a more serious problem may be present.

Elevate the area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling.

Remove all rings , anklets, or any other jewelry that goes around an extremity. It will be more difficult to remove the jewelry once swelling develops.

Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Do not rub or massage your calf if swelling is present. If swelling is caused by a blood clot, massage could cause the blood clot to break off and travel through your bloodstream.

Stand and move your legs. Gentle motion may help with cramps that are brought on by exercise.

Drink plenty of fluids. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, will often help leg cramps. For more information about the home treatment of muscle cramps that are often caused by dehydration from exercise or heat. If you think your child is having growing pains, try warmth and massage to relieve discomfort in the legs. Do not rub or massage a calf that is swollen.

For leg cramps, consider wearing support stockings during the day, and take frequent rest periods (with your feet up). If leg cramps occur during pregnancy, make sure you are eating a diet rich in calcium and magnesium. Talk with your doctor about taking a calcium supplement. He or she may recommend a calcium supplement that does not contain phosphorus. Do not smoke. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair.

Symptoms to Watch For During Home Treatment

Consult your physician immediately if any of the following symptoms occur during home treatment:

You are unable to use your leg normally.

Pain or swelling develops.

Signs of infection develop.

Numbness or tingling develops.

Cool, pale skin develops.

Symptoms continue after 1 to 2 weeks of home treatment.

Symptoms become more frequent or more severe.

Massage Technique for a Deep Tissue Leg Massage

Learn how to use the forearm on the outside of the leg for a deep tissue massage

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