The big muscles of the legs can benefit from a routine quadriceps stretch. Not only can our leg muscles get tight from exercising but they can also feel tight with prolonged periods of sitting.
When we’re walking for instance, there are a group of muscles which flex the hip; that is when we bend it forwards at the hip joint to take a step forward. There are also a group of muscles which extend the knee; that is when we foot comes forward to land and the knee straightens. One of the muscles which crosses both the hip and knee joints and therefore does both of these actions, is a muscle known as rectus femoris.
The rectus femoris muscle runs down the centre of the thigh. It is often grouped with 3 other muscles; vastus lateralis; vastus medialis and vastus intermedius; under the term ‘quadriceps’.
The quadriceps can become strained during exercise, usually from excessive and repeated actions such as kicking a ball, sudden strong contraction such as sprinting or by rapid deceleration such as a quick change of direction. It is usually the rectus femoris muscle which suffers a strain, perhaps because it crosses both joints and is the most superficial of the quadricep muscles; that is, being closer to the surface.
As remedial massage therapists we are best at treating mild strains. If you are feeling a little stiff and uncomfortable with walking or going downstairs and perhaps a little tender to touch, we’re the people to see. Remedial massage will treat surrounding trigger points to relieve the symptoms of the strain by restoring range of movement, improving blood flow and decreasing pain. If there is acute pain, visible swelling or any nasty sounds at the time of injury, remedial massage therapists would refer you on to someone else for a more thorough diagnosis and intervention.
Tight Quadriceps | Quadriceps Stretch
Equally, muscles which don’t get used enough tend to feel tighter and often lead to chronic tension, pain and weakness. Sitting for prolonged periods is often to blame for tightness at the hip joint as the quadriceps (or more specifically the rectus femoris muscle) is kept in a shortened position with the hip flexed, often accompanied by some slouching and crossed ankles!
In upright the hips have a chance to open up a bit so regular movement can be good to ward off excessive tightness. However if the quads are super tight you they can act negatively on the position of the pelvis, tilting it forward and creating excessive curving of the lower back, associated poor abdominal control and glute activation and potential for increased risk of injury! So it’s worth getting giving due attention to those tight muscles with remedial massage and stretches.
DOMS, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
If you have a mild case of DOMS after strenuous exercise, gentle stretching to the point of discomfort but not pain may help to ease your discomfort and increase range of motion. It is also going to help get some blood flow into the affected area which will help shift out waste metabolites and bring fresh oxygenated blood to help tissues mend and repair. Remedial massage is also good for flushing pre- and post- exercise and gentle stretches may also be prescribed.
* Hold on to something for balance if needed.
* Grab the top of one foot behind you.
* Ensure your pelvis is level – don’t hitch up or drop down through the hip.
* Ensure that you are not excessively arching the lower back by engaging the abdominals to keep the pelvis and ribcage in alignment.
* Gently draw the leg in line with and if you are flexible enough, slightly behind the line of the body to stretch down through the length of the thigh.
* Hold the stretch for around 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Melbourne Natural Therapies