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Quadriceps Exercises

Date issued: December 2022

Review date: December 2024

Ref: A-551/NB/ED/Quadriceps Exercises

PDF:  Quadriceps Exercises final December 2022.pdf [pdf] 122KB

Knee pain and swelling often follows injury or ‘wear and tear’ in the knee. The body’s reaction is often to ‘turn-off’ the muscles around the knee. Unfortunately, this can lead to muscle wasting, weakness and more pain

Pain can be managed with ice, elevation, and regular pain killers.


  • Remember: ice can burn. Using a bag of ice or frozen peas, wrap them in a damp tea towel and apply to the area for 20 minutes, then remove.  Do not reapply the ice until the skin has returned to normal.  This can be repeated as frequently as you like.


  • It is essential to maintain the muscle contraction in your thigh as soon as the first day following onset of pain

  • For the muscles to work at their best, you may need to take pain relief and use ice to decrease the pain and swelling.

  • Sit with your legs out straight out in front of you. If you have brace on then remove it for the exercise. Using your other leg as a comparison, tense the thigh on your injured leg, you may feel the back of the knee press down. Often it is easier to put a small towel rolled up behind your knee to push into. Pull your foot up to stretch the back of the leg further. Keep your knee straight whilst you do this.

  • Repeat as often as comfortable.

  • Aim for 20 repetitions every 2 hours.

Self-Referral to Physiotherapy

You have the option of a delayed referral to physiotherapy should your injury not settle with the advice given during your time in ED.  If you feel you require physiotherapy then please use the link below to self-refer.  This is also available via your General Practitioner.


Please be Aware: it is very important that you see your doctor immediately if you notice that the calf becomes increasingly tender, red and hot to touch                                                          

DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a rare complication following any injury which may limit your mobility. Symptoms to be aware of and to report include:

  • throbbing or cramping pain in 1 leg (rarely both legs), usually in the calf or thigh

  • swelling in 1 leg (rarely both legs)                                                                                               

  • warm skin around the painful area                                              

  • red or darkened skin around the painful area                            

  • swollen veins that are hard or sore when you touch them

Call 999 or attend the Emergency Department if you develop chest pain or breathlessness.

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