A key component of injury prevention and recovery is maintaining proper muscle balance. In the knee, this requires more focus on improving mobility in the quadriceps through stretching and rolling.The powerful quadriceps muscle group is located on the front of the thigh and consists of four muscle; the vastus medialis (VM), vastus lateralis (VL), vastus intermedius (VI) and rectus femoris (RF). These large muscles originate at the femur, except the rectus femoris, and insert at the quadriceps tendon.
Rolling the quadriceps provides users with an option to improve mobility of the muscle without compressing and irritating the knee joint. In my experience several types of knee injuries respond better to rolling because the knee joint is not compressed during rolling as it is with stretching. For instance, flexing an osteoarthritic knee to stretch the quadriceps may compress and irritate the joint further increasing pain and stiffness.
Quadriceps Trigger Point Rolling Techniques
Conditions- Tight quadriceps, quadriceps strain, patellar tendinitis/tendinosis, low back pain, hamstring strain, patellofemoral pain, osteoarthritis
Primary muscles- Quadriceps (vastus lateralis, vastus medius
vastus intermedius and rectus femoris)
Secondary muscles- Sartorius, pectineus
Technique- Scan technique
Alternative technique- Scan & stretch
Alternative equipment- Stick, rolling pin, Therawheel
Frequency- 3-5x per week
Duration- 45-60 seconds each area
Goal- General scanning of muscle to discover tight areas and loosen muscles.
Position- The quadriceps should be relaxed as much as possible, which is achieved by keeping the knee straight. This can be accomplished by sitting on the edge of a chair or in standing.
Technique- Roll the entire length of the quadriceps from the hip down towards the knee and up again. Begin rolling the outside of the quadriceps and work towards the inner part of the quadriceps. Note any areas that may feel tighter or more sensitive.
Considerations- A good rule of thumb is to provide enough pressure that creates mild discomfort, but it is not necessary to endure lots of pain. Beginners are commonly unfamiliar with how much pressure to use and may use too much or too little pressure.
Technique- Seated pin &stretch
Alternative technique- Squat pin & stretch
Recommended equipment- Tennis ball, lacrosse ball, golf ball
Frequency- 3-5x per week
Duration- 10-15 knee extensions on each area
Goal- Focal mobilization with movement
Position- Sit in a chair with knees flexed and feet touching floor.
Technique- Maintain direct pressure via equipment to quadriceps and slowly raise lower leg upward extending the knee but keeping back of leg on bench. Slowly lower foot to floor and repeat 3-5x on specific area and repeat on other tight areas of quadriceps.
Considerations- Larger balls like softballs will be less intense and cover more surface area, and smaller balls like golf balls provide more intensity but cover a smaller surface area.
Technique- Full load bearing pin &stretch
Alternate technique- Full load bearing roll
Recommended equipment- Foam roller, medicine ball, tennis ball, rolling pin
Frequency- 2-3x per week
Duration- 10-15 total reps
Tempo- Slow- moderate
Goal- Deep mobilization pressure with movement
Start position- Lie flat on a mat in prone position (stomach) and place equipment under one or both thighs with leg(s) straight.
Finish position- In the same position slowly bend the knee as far back as possible then extend leg and repeat.
Technique- Flex and extend the knee with a slow to moderate tempo. Move equipment to different areas of muscle and place foam roller at various angles to mobilize different parts of muscle.
Considerations- This technique can be intense especially with a rolling pin or ball. The foam roller is softer and larger which diffuses pressure better and may be more tolerable at the beginning.
The quadriceps is often over used and vulnerable to injury. They are the only extensors of the knee joint providing the majority of muscle power performed during many sports and activities. A common dysfunctional pattern detected in the legs is a stronger and tighter quadriceps over-compensating for the weaker hamstrings. The dominant muscle (quadriceps) over powers and limits or inhibits function of the antagonist muscle (hamstrings). This decreases optimal function and may lead to muscle imbalances, dysfunction and possible injury anywhere along the entire kinetic chain. For example, Kanchanomai S. et al. (2015) reported in a prospective study over 1 year of 684 healthy students that the onset of low back pain was also associated with quadriceps muscle tightness.
Rolling is an excellent addition to any prevention,recovery or performance program. Specifically, rolling the quadriceps may help avoid back, knee and hip injuries. For more information on fitness and rolling tips visit our website www.therawheel.com.
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