The rectus femoris is one of the four muscles that form the quadriceps (front of the thigh). It is attached to the hip at the top and the quadriceps tendon at the knee.
It is the only muscle of the four in the quadriceps that is involved in hip flexion. Rectus femoris pain can be felt from the hip to the knee.
You can strain this muscle, bruise it or even rupture it. Treatment can include rest, topical applications, massage and exercise.
Pain in the rectus femoris can occur at the front of the hip after rigorous exercise or activity. If you have pain on the top center of your leg, it is typically related to the rectus femoris muscle.
When you feel pain when you raise your knee or extend your leg out, the rectus femoris is usually the muscle involved.
Effects of Rest, Ice & Heat
When you have injured or feel pain in the rectus femoris region, you need to rest your leg. Rest prevents further aggravation of the muscle.
It also gives the ice treatments time to reduce swelling and pain during the first 48 hours. Ice causes vasoconstriction, which minimizes pain and swelling by limiting blood and lymph flow to the area.
Ice can be used for tendinitis or strains in this area. Ice packs are effective for keeping the ice compressed against the rectus femoris muscle.
Elevating the leg above the heart can also reduce inflammation and pain. Once the initial swelling has subsided, heat can promote blood flow to the area for healing.
Types of Medication
Non steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medicines such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help reduce rectus femoris pain and inflammation. These medicines are Cox-2 inhibitors which control Cox-2 enzymes and prostaglandins (chemicals) as they naturally react to an injury or direct hit.
Topical ointments such as Bengay may also help reduce swelling and control pain, especially during activity. Doctors may prescribe steroids for more severe pain.
Other Types of Treatment
Massage can be a highly effective way to treat rectus femoris pain. Massage is most effective if an oil or lotion is used and when the muscle is completely relaxed.
Stretching exercises can help loosen the muscle tissues, prepare them for movement and alleviate pain. Simply pulling a knee up from behind can stretch the rectus femoris muscle.
Resistance training like walking, bicycling or light weightlifting can help you overcome pain by promoting blood flow to this area. Some people use exercise bands or light dumbbells for rehabilitating the rectus femoris muscles.
There is no set time frame for overcoming rectus femoris pain or any associated injuries. Those who require surgery for a ruptured rectus femoris muscle will need a longer time to recover.
Healing is largely contingent on the effort that goes into treatment and rehabilitation. A combination of treatments such as ice, medication and exercise is usually the quickest and most effective way to overcome rectus femoris pain.