Whether an individual is physically active or leads a sedentary lifestyle, he/she is at high risk to overly tight quadriceps that produces imbalanced muscular tension at the hips. If not properly dealt with, excessively tight quadriceps can affect the posture and body mechanics, thus resulting to back pain as well as increasing the risk of the individual to hip and knee injuries.
Close look on the quadriceps muscles
The quadriceps is comprised of four muscles that are situated at the anterior aspect of the thigh. The four muscles influence the movement at the knee. The rectus femoris is the biggest of the four muscles that crosses over the hip and works together with the iliopsoas muscles to generate hip flexion.
Once the quadriceps muscles are excessively worked out during athletic movements such as running, jumping or weight training, they end up tight and rigid and produce imbalanced tension at the joints.
Standing and sitting with the knees hyperextended can also generate tight quadriceps. When the tight quadriceps is accompanied by weakened hamstrings, the individual is at high risk for an ACL injury.
Tightness of the hip flexor
It is important to note that the skeleton is considered as a kinetic chain. It simply means that the position of one joint can affect the position of its neighbor. Once a single joint is out of alignment, it can produce a domino effect on other joints.
Once the hip flexor muscles are too tight, they exert force on the pelvis which causes it to tilt forward, thus throwing the hip out of its alignment. An anterior pelvic tilt augments the lordotic curve of the lower back which causes the vertebrae to become compacted, thus the knees are hyperextended. The tight hip flexors can cause back and knee pain as well as lead to inefficient movement while playing sports, thus increasing the risk for injuries.
Quadriceps that is tight can also cause the patella to misalign, resulting to a sore condition called as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). Aside from overuse during sports, factors that can aggravate the condition include squatting, prolonged sitting, running and stair climbing.
PFPS is often triggered by imbalanced muscle tension at the knee joint that causes the patella to be pulled out of track. In most cases, the rectus femoris and vastus lateralis create lateral forces on the patella that should be offset by strengthening the vastus medialis as well as stretching the tight muscles.
Restoration of balance
Daily stretching of the quadriceps is vital in order to improve muscular balance at the knee and hip. A classic quadriceps stretch is performed by standing erect close to a chair or wall. Use one arm for balance and then hold the ankle of the outside leg and pull the heel towards to buttocks. The knee should be pointed straight down to the floor and fully extend the hip. Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds.
Always bear in mind that it is vital to strengthen the opposing muscles, particularly the hamstrings and gluteal muscles. Lack of proper warm up before engaging in any sport can make the tight quadriceps prone to injury.