Quadriceps Knee Pain: Tight, Weak Quadriceps Pain Causes and Treatment

The quadriceps is made up of four muscles functioning for proper leg extension. Among these muscles is the rectus femoris, which is the most anterior and superficial of the four. It is the muscle that works to extend the knee. Therefore, any injury on the rectus femoris muscle will result to quadriceps knee pain. Injury or tears are usually on the proximal or middle third part of the muscle. Minor tears or injuries only become functionally limiting and leads to tight quadriceps knee pain when doing speed sprinting and attempting to kick on the run such as playing soccer.

Causes of Quadriceps Knee Pain

  • Muscle strain and tears
  • Injury in sprinting, particularly the acceleration phase
  • Explosive jumping or long jumps
  • Long kicking
  • Contracting or meeting resistance (such as two players kicking a ball at the same time)
  • Underlying medical conditions such as iliacus spasm and acute hypertonic iliopsoas

Levels of Muscle Strain Resulting to Quadriceps Knee Pain

Grade 1:

  • muscle spasm above and below the injury site
  • local tenderness
  • pain during knee extension and hip flexion strength testing

Grade 2:

  • pain during passive prone knee bend
  • same as grade 1 findings, only on a more significant level

Grade 3:

  • very palpable muscle defect
  • ‘œbunching’ of the muscle during contraction that may indicate hematoma

An arthrogram is the radiographic examination performed on the soft tissues of the joint structures to diagnose trauma to the joint capsule or ligament and determine the extent of injury that caused the weak quadriceps knee pain or tight quadriceps knee pain.

Treatment for Quadriceps Knee Pain

  • Compress and elevate affected knee
  • Perform gentle passive or active knee flexion and extension while being iced. It’s advisable to perform this treatment while the person is side lying with a strap tied around the foot and passed over the shoulder.