Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) - How to treat the Quadriceps

Self-Myofascial Release - Massage Sticks - Spiky Massage Balls

Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) routine for the legs quadriceps

How to stretch the Quadriceps (Massage Stick - SMR)

There are occasions where treatment using myofascial release techniques may not be suitable or advisable (contraindicated). Contraindications can be global meaning that a method should not be used at all or local, meaning it might be possible to apply a technique to some areas of the body but not others. Before commencing with any fitness or stretching activities and particularly self-myofascial release techniques, one should be sure it is safe. Hence, if one has any contraindications to massage or myofascial release techniques, then self-treatment using the methods listed in the article is not advisable. If in doubt speak to a suitably qualified professional and get advice before commencing with any of these self-treatment methods.

Image of the Quadriceps muscles (left thigh) anterior view

Image of Quadriceps muscles (left thigh) anterior or front view.

Images produced with kind permission of 3d4medical.com from Essential Anatomy 5

(Copyright © 2018 3D4Medical. All rights reserved.)

The above image is of a left leg, and the Quadriceps clearly shows the Rectus Femoris (middle thigh), Vastus Lateralis (outer thigh and right side of image) and Vastus Medialis (inner thigh and left side of the image). It is relatively easy to self-treat all three of these Quadricep muscle tissues using a massage stick roller. Although the author has found this technique to work exceptionally well on the Quadriceps, it is not suitable for the calf muscles, hamstrings or indeed the majority of the rest of the body. However, it is possible to treat the calves and hamstrings very effectively with a spiky massage ball and self-soft tissue release. Equally, there is little point in trying to use the massage stick roller on the TFL or ITB and tension here is usually a symptom of other issues within the musculoskeletal system. Furthermore, much like ligaments and tendons, the ITB is not a muscle, so why stretch it?

The advantage of using a massage stick roller over a foam roller on the quads is that one can treat the quads in a relaxed or semi-relaxed state. Typically, when one uses a foam roller on the quads, one will be adopting a prone, press-up type position and the quads are generally under load (contracted/tense). Both foam rollers and massage stick rollers have origins in a myofascial massage technique called stripping. The application of any myofascial stripping technique to tense or contracted muscles is usually extremely uncomfortable. Hence, a good massage therapist would work with tissues in a relaxed or semi-relaxed state and with the patient's body.

What the author particularly likes about the massage stick rollers is that one can use these effectively on the quadriceps for self-myofascial release and without the tissues being under load. As per the above diagram, one can simply sit on a chair, bench or similar with the knees bent at around ninety degrees. It is then a simple case of extending (straightening) the leg that is to be treated to about forty-five degrees and then letting it relax. This position provides access to the Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis and Vastus Medialis. It is then a simple case of placing the massage stick roller 3-5 cm superiorly to the patella (above the kneecap) and applying a comfortable level of pressure through the stick roller. Then while maintaining the pressure one just rolls the massage stick roller up the leg towards the body or heart, as in massage. One can then repeat the technique 3-5 times and with varying pressure on each of the quadricep muscles.

After treating the Quadriceps, it is worth moving on to the Hamstrings unless one has already treated these before finally addressing the calf muscles starting with the Gastrocnemius.

The article was written by Dr Terry Davis MChiro, DC, BSc (Hons), Adv. Dip. Rem. Massag.,  Cert. WHS.


About the Chiropractor Author

The author possesses an unusual background for a Chiropractor (McTimoney). His education, training and practical experience span over two decades and relate to both physical and mental aspects of health. He has also needed to push his own body and mind to the limits of physical and psychological endurance as part of his time serving in Britain’s elite military forces. His education includes a bachelor of science degree in Business Management, with a specialisation in psychology and mental health in the workplace, an Integrated Masters in Chiropractic, MChiro and a multitude of soft-tissue therapy qualifications. His soft tissue qualifications range from certificate level right through to a BTEC Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Clinical Sports and Remedial Massage Therapy. Terry also has extensive experience in security, work, health and safety and holds relevant certifications. He has also taught at Advanced Diploma level (Myotherapy / Musculoskeletal Therapy) in Australia, both theoretical and practical aspects including advanced Myofascial Release Techniques and has certification in training and assessment. Terry’s combination of knowledge through, education, training, his elite military experience and personal injury history have paid dividends for the patients he sees and has treated. Terry is still extremely active and enjoys distance running, kayaking, mountain biking and endurance-type activities.


Complementary & Natural Health Council (CHNC)
General Chiropractic Council (GCC)
Sports Massage Association (SMA)