Thigh Bruise and Strain (Quadriceps Contusion)

What is a thigh bruise and strain?

A thigh bruise is a bruise to the group of large muscles in the front of the thigh. They are called the quadriceps muscles. A thigh strain is a stretch or tear of a muscle or tendon in the quadriceps area. Tendons are strong bands of tissue that attach muscle to bone.

This type of injury is often called a pulled muscle.

What is the cause?

A thigh bruise is caused by a direct hit to the muscles of the thigh.

A strain may be caused by overuse or by a sudden movement of the thigh in activities like sprinting or jumping.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the middle of your thigh
  • Trouble walking or running
  • Trouble bending or straightening your leg or lifting your knee
  • Swelling and discolored skin

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history and examine you.

How is it treated?

Right after your injury your healthcare provider may wrap your leg to keep it in a bent-knee position. This will put a maximum stretch on the thigh muscles, keeping them from getting too tight or stiff while you heal.

You will need to change or stop doing the activities that cause pain until your muscle or tendon has healed. For example, you may need to swim instead of run.

Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises. Other types of physical therapy may include treatment with ultrasound (sound waves) or muscle stimulation. Muscle stimulation uses wires attached to your skin. The wires deliver an electric charge that exercises your muscles by causing them to tighten and relax.

A mild bruise or strain may heal within a few weeks. A more severe bruise or strain may take 6 weeks or longer.

Sometimes a large bruise may bleed a lot into the thigh muscle. Deposits of calcium may form in the muscle tissue as the bruise heals, causing a hard lump in the muscle that may last a long time.

How can I take care of myself?

To help relieve swelling and pain:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth on the area every 3 to 4 hours, for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Do ice massage. To do this, freeze water in a Styrofoam cup, then peel the top of the cup away to expose the ice. Hold the bottom of the cup and rub the ice over the painful area for 5 to 10 minutes. Do this several times a day while you have pain.
  • Keep your thigh up on pillows when you sit or lie down.
  • You may also get an elastic or neoprene sleeve to wear around your thigh.
  • Take nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take these medicines for more than 10 days.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age.
    • Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Unless recommended by your provider, don’t take more than 3000 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours. To make sure you don’t take too much, check other medicines you take to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Ask your provider if you need to avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine.
  • Put moist heat on the sore area for 10 to 15 minutes before you do warm-up and stretching exercises. Moist heat may help relax your muscles. Moist heat includes heat patches or moist heating pads that you can buy at most drugstores, a warm wet washcloth, or a hot shower. To prevent burns to your skin, follow directions on the package and do not lie on any type of hot pad. Don’t use heat if you have swelling.

Wear an elastic thigh wrap as directed by your provider when you return to your activities.

How can I help prevent a thigh bruise or strain?

Thigh bruises are usually caused by accidents that are not easy to prevent. Follow safety rules and use any protective equipment recommended for your work or sport. Strains are best prevented by warming up and stretching properly before your activity.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-21
Last reviewed: 2013-07-19
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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