Pulled Muscle in the Thigh
Straining a muscle, whether from sports or daily activity, is common for people of all ages. When a muscle is stretched beyond its limit, a tear can occur that can range from mild to serious. When the thigh is used as an integral part of high-speed activities such as football, running, soccer and basketball, thigh muscle strains can occur rather easily.
A muscle strain (pulled muscle), happens when your muscle is overstretched or torn as a result of overuse, fatigue, or improper use. Strains are commonly confused with sprains. A sprain is the stretching or tearing of the tough bands of fibrous tissue (ligaments) that connect two bones in your joints. Strains and sprains share similar signs and symptoms but involve different parts of your body.
The thigh has three sets of muscles:
- Hamstring muscles: Located in the back of the thigh to extend and flex the leg
- Quadriceps muscles: Located in the front of the thigh to extend and flex the leg
- Adductor muscles: Located on the inside of the thigh to pull the legs together
Since the hamstring and quadriceps muscles cross at the hip and knee, they are at a high risk of being strained. In addition, muscles weaken when strained, so it is important to let them heal properly to avoid further damage.
When a muscle is stretched too far, the fibers can become torn. This tearing away of the muscle from the tendon can result in a painful injury if left unattended.
If there is an accident or injury that causes a direct blow to the thigh muscles, this can also create a serious strain.
Those who experience a thigh muscle strain generally feel a snapping sensation in the thigh area. This sensation is the muscle tearing. When this type of injury occurs, it can create a more serious issue if the blood vessels are also broken. Additionally, a popping feeling can also be a sign of a pulled muscle in the thigh area, where the pain is severe and instant. Lastly, other symptoms to look out for are if the area surrounding the injury is tender to touch or if bruising is visible.
When diagnosed, your Florida Orthopaedic Institute physician will discuss with you your history and any details about the injury. Then, they will ask you about your symptoms and examine the thigh for tenderness and bruising.
To determine mobility, your physician may ask you to bend and straighten your knee. In certain cases, an x-ray or other diagnostics may take place to determine the severity of the injury. More specifically, muscle strains are graded based on their degree of severity, 1 being mild and 3 being severe. If it is a Grade 1 strain, it can heal rather quickly, while a Grade 3 strain might take an extended period of time.
After diagnosis, your physician will discuss all viable treatment options to determine the best option for your injury. Since almost all thigh muscle strains can heal without surgery, your physician will likely recommend a combination of over-the-counter medicine and rest.
If non-surgical treatment is an option, the R.I.C.E. protocol is most commonly used to treat muscle strain injuries. This treatment can generally heal most thigh muscle strains without the need for surgery.
R.I.C.E. stands for:
Rest: Stop the activity you had been performing at the time of the injury while it heals.
Ice: Use cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
Compression: Wrap the injury in a soft compression bandage.
Elevation: Raise your leg higher than your heart to minimize the swelling.
In addition to R.I.C.E., your physician may also recommend that you take over-the-counter medicine to stop the pain and swelling. That said, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) can also assist with pain relief and healing.
As the injury heals, physical therapy will slowly create a better range of motion and build strength. Before returning to sports or normal physical activity, your thigh muscle should be completely healed. This is because full-strength, healthy muscles are the only kind that can combat future tears and additional injury.
What Can you Do to Prevent a Pulled Muscle in the Thigh?
There are various techniques you can use to prevent all muscle strains. Some common techniques include:
- Dynamic stretching: active movements where joints and muscles go through full range of motion.
- Efficiently warm up before strenuous activity.
- Cross-training: activities such as weight lifting or resistance band training to strengthen muscles outside of the chosen sport or strenuous activity.
- Eating foods with high potassium such as bananas or avocados can help prevent muscle fatigue.
If surgery is recommended, it will only be in the most severe of cases. That said, most thigh muscle strains do not require surgical attention. Even Grade 3 strains can usually heal on their own through rest and physical therapy. During your initial diagnosis, your physician will determine the severity of the strain and discuss with you all treatment options available.
If you have pain in your thigh, call Florida Orthopaedic Institute to schedule an appointment for an evaluation. Be ensured that all FOI surgeons are fellowship-trained, adding additional expertise in their specialty. In addition, they stay current on the latest thigh muscle strain research and will discuss all your treatment and repair options.
DOWNLOAD OUR DOCTOR QUESTIONNAIRE.
If you are unsure about what to ask during your evaluation, download our free questionnaire “Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Thigh Muscle Strains.”
The following Florida Orthopaedic Institute physicians specialize in Thigh Muscle Strains:
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If you are a candidate for hip replacement, or just looking to learn more about this treatment option, watch one patient’s story and learn about Florida Orthopaedic Institute’s hip replacement program.
Common Hip & Thigh Conditions
In addition to strained thigh muscles, here are more hip and thigh conditions to look out for if you are experiencing issues in that area:
- Avascular Necrosis (AVN) of the Hip.
- Bursitis of the Hip (Trochanteric Bursitis).
- Degenerative Joint Disease of the Hip (Osteoarthritis of the Hip).
- Femoral Fractures.
- Hip Dislocation.
- Hip Fracture.
- Labral Tears of the Hip.
- Loose Bodies in the Hip.
- Muscle Strain Injuries of the Hip.
- Muscle Strain Injuries of the Thigh.
- Osteoarthritis of the Hip.
- Pediatric Femoral Fractures.
- Perthes Disease.
- Preventing Hip Fractures.
- Slipped Captial Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE).
- Snapping Hip Syndrome.
- Transient Osteoporosis of the Hip.
Common Hip & Thigh Procedures
While most common hip and thigh injuries have non-surgical treatment options, here are some procedures FOI specializes in:
- Arthroscopic Surgery for Femoral-Acetabular Impingement (FAI).
- Computer-Assisted Hip Replacement Surgery.
- Core Decompression for Avascular Necrosis of the Hip.
- Femur Fracture Fixation with Dynamic Hip Screw.
- Femur Fracture Fixation with Intramedullary Rod.
- Fluoroscopic Guided Hip Injection.
- Hip Arthroscopy.
- Hip Fracture Treatment with Surgical Screws.
- Internal Screw Fixation for Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE).
- Large Bearing Metal-on-Metal Mini Total Hip.
- Mini Total Hip Replacement.
- Partial Hip Resurfacing (Wright).
- Periacetabular Osteotomy.
- Revision Hip Surgery.
- Revision Hip with Allograft.
- Surgical Dislocation and Debridement for FAI.
- Total Hip Replacement and Resurfacing.