One of the effects of repetitive activity, either athletic, recreational, or professional, is that tension builds in the quadriceps, hamstrings, and inner thighs. Think about any athletic ready position with a slight hinge in your hips. This stance automatically loads the thighs as well as the glutes in order for a movement reaction to be made. The quadriceps especially take a beating during long steep hiking descents while supporting the knee over varying terrain. Overuse and excessive tension in the quads can lead to patellar tendonitis, improper tracking of the patella, IT Band tightness and dysfunction, as well as limited hip and knee range of motion. Hamstring and inner thigh tension typically shows up as tendinitis on the inner aspect of the knee, high groin region, or underneath the glute crease where the hamstring meets your hip bone. The good news is that by taking the time to free up these tissues from becoming overly stuck to neighboring tissue and maintaining healthy pliability you can avoid overuse injuries and find profound relief and enhanced function. Here are 6 self-massage strategies for the thigh.
Tapotement Quads: Make a fist with each hand and pummel throughout the quadriceps staying clear of your kneecap. Use varying amounts of force and tempo to reach different levels of tissue. For muscle activation (which is great for early mornings to wake up and invigorate) use faster speeds and movement around the region. For relaxation use consistent repetitive speed and force in one area until a response is felt. And yes, I live in Portland. You may need sunglasses.
Lengthening Stroke Quads + ITB: Using your knuckles, edge of forearm, or elbow point, lengthen down your quadriceps group by applying pressure into your thigh and at an angle toward your feet. Apply more downward pressure with each stroke as needed. Make sure to work your lateral and medial quad in addition to straight down as these 4 muscles (Vastus lateralis, medialis, intermedius, and rectus femoris) get glued down to the bone, to each other, and to the ITB. Expect a lot of heat to be release from working here as well as deep knots. Make sure to breath and work with your body.
Free ITB from Hamstring: Locate the edge of your IT Band by moving to the outside edge of your lateral quad. Work along this edge from your upper thigh to your knee. Move more underneath your thigh and knead that tissue using up and down movements with your fingers by lifting up your entire thigh then letting it drop to the ground.
GB 31 and ST 31 Acupressure Point: Find Gallbladder 31 by standing erect and resting your arms straight at your side. Where your middle finger lands on the side of your thigh is GB 31. Knead up and down this entire region with your palm, fingers, fist, and elbow if you can reach. This will not only free up adhesions along the ITB and quad tendon, but GB 31 helps alleviate numbness in the thigh region and sciatica. Find Stomach 31 by finding the top of the bulk of your quadriceps muscle before it dips down level with the height of your pubic bone. Use your fingers, knuckles, or elbow to sink into this point. ST 31 is used to treat leg, hip, and abdominal pain, and will help release upper quad tension prevalent with sitting for too long and high levels of activity such as hiking, running, and lifting.
Hip Flexor Stretch: Use one of the most powerful hip flexor stretches to unlock the front of your hip and thigh. Place one leg forward into a lunge position with your back knee down. Use a soft surface for your knee. Start with the lunge then when ready, reach for your back foot with your same side hand. Square your hips and shoulders forward and play with how far your hips are into extension versus how close your foot is to your glutes. Find the sweet spot and breathe. Make sure to keep your core stabilized as to not over arch your lower back.
Cross Hamstring Stretch: This is my favorite stretch for releasing tension along the entire hamstring, IT Band, outer hip, and even down through the lower leg. First, lay flat on your back and either hold behind your thigh below your knee, or grab over your toes with your opposite hand. With your knee straight and slowly cross your leg over your body. Play with foot motion to focus on clearing hamstring and calf tension. The more extended your knee is the more you will be able to release the side of your hip and IT Band as well.