What are the quads and how do they function to move your body?
The quadriceps consist of 4 separate muscles on the front, outside of the thighs:
- Rectus femoris.
- Vastus lateralis.
- Vastus medialis.
- Vastus intermedius
This muscle group is responsible for flexing the leg, externally rotating it, and abducting it. These are the 'movements' in the body that the quadriceps specifically produce.
When there is an accumulation of unhealthy fascia in the quads (we'll get to why that can happen in a moment), they are not able to optimally make the movements they are designed to make. But if you keep moving, the movement will most likely go excessively into a nearby joint - like the hips or the knee - causing you pain and injury.
One of the most common ways to identify that your quads are stiff is if you have a hard time bending over. This is an indicator that your quads won't shorten - which is the true test of flexibility - and therefore your body won't fold forward easily.
Why do the quads get stiff or have pain?
In short, a stiff muscle has too much dense, hardened, unhealthy fascia in it. The most common ways to accumulate dense fascia in a specific muscle are repetitive motion, lack of movement, or holding positions for long periods of times.
When it comes to the quads common repetitive motions include walking and running. We all walk for the most part repetitively and many of us run. Both movements use and abuse the quads. Of course if you barely walk or run, that too will stiffen up your quads. Lastly, sitting is a form of holding the quads in a lengthened position repetitively. This overstretches the muscle group and in the process lays down dense, unhealthy fascia. It also causes pain and strain in the knee.
In terms of pain directly in the quads, this is less common than stiffness caused from an accumulation of dense fascia. There can be pain at the attached joints - the knees and the hips, but pain directly in the quads is most commonly experienced from a direct blow causing a bruise. So when it comes to how to relieve quad pain, you often just need to give it time to heal.
Sore quads and how to stretch a sore quad is a different matter. Our quads can get sore from overuse or from stretching them or working them out. The best way to alleviate the soreness is to not only stretch the quads using resistance, but to also stretch their balancing muscle group (on the opposite side of the bone) the medial hamstring. When you do this you take the pressure and strain off of the quads and in the process relieve the pain.
**Remember: When there is an accumulation of dense, unhealthy fascia, you have little to no sensation in the affected area.
What are the deeper health associations with tight quads?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Stomach Meridian runs along the quadriceps up the front of the torso and over each nipple and into the jaw. So when you improve the health of the fascia in your quads through the Bendable Body Method of Stretching, you also open up the Stomach Meridian and improve specific associated physiological and psychological conditions. They are:
- Finding the Right Work
- Self Expression
What is the best way to stretch your quads?
Whether we are talking about quad stretches for seniors, for knee pain, for running, walking, sitting or just general stiffness, the best way to stretch your quads is using resistance. We have multiple versions of quad stretches (check out the running, singing and allergy blogs). Some stretch positions are easier to get in than others. However, when it comes to really making a big impact on quad stiffness and knee pain you may be experiencing, see if you can do the stretch in the following video. If you are experiencing knee pain, it may be challenging at first. A good tip is to use plenty of cushion for kneeling during the stretch.