The Thigh Who Loved Me

Muscle of the Month: Quadriceps

Quads - ottawa massage blog

The quadriceps (‘quads’) are the beautiful muscles that make up the fronts of your thighs. They are a group of four muscles that, working together, help flex (bend) the hip and extend (straighten) the knee. Only one of the quad muscles actually flexes the hip, while all four of them help stabilize and extend the knee. The more support and strength the knee has, the less likely it is to be prone to injury; so it is important to keep the quads strong and healthy to ensure a healthy knee joint later in life.

Rectus Femoris: This one muscle moves two joints: hip and knee

Actions – Flexes the hip, extends the knee

Common pain culprits – excessive stair climbing, running

The rectus femoris is the longest of the four quad muscles and is the only one to cross over two joints: hip and knee. This placement allows the muscle both to flex the hip and to extend the knee. This is why mounting many sets of stairs during a day might cause pain in the rectus femoris. As you take each step, you are flexing the hip then extending the knee, engaging the entire muscle repeatedly.  As with most muscles, the stronger the muscle gets, the less likely that this pain will arise.

The fix: Strengthen the rectus femoris. Keep both its actions in mind while strengthening this muscle – if you only do hip flexing exercises (such as straight leg raises) you will not address the lower fibers; and vice versa, if you only do knee extensions, you will not be targeting the upper fibers. Aim for a dynamic exercise like squats or lunges.

Vastus lateralis, Vastus Medialis, Vastus Intermedius: The three buddies of knee pain

The vastus muscles - Ottawa Massage Blog

Rectus Femoris has been removed to show Vastus Intermedius

Actions – Extends the knee

Common pain culprits – Running

These three muscles make up the rest of the quadriceps group and cause the majority of knee pain. They are located beside and underneath the rectus femoris. As they all do the same action, the only way to differentiate which one is impaired is to look for specific pain patterns, which your therapist is trained to do. The vastus medialis lies on the inside of the thigh and causes inner and deep knee pain, as well as weakness in both the knee and thigh. Vastus lateralis is on the outside of the thigh and causes outer knee pain, as well as pain that flares up while lying on one’s side. Lastly, the vastus intermedius lies deep to the rectus femoris and is the toughest to isolate, as typically it mimics the vastus medialis pain pattern and is hard to reach with massage.

The fix: Stretch before and after running, and strengthen quads. Your RMT can help you with strength tests to determine if any of these muscles is weak, and can suggest specific strength exercises for each muscle.

*All images and drawings in our blogs are obtained from wikimedia.commons and are in the public domain. Our photographs are all original material*

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Three-time nominee and 2016 winner of Top Massage Clinic in Ottawa! At Body Poets Massage Therapy, we are committed to excellence in client care. We provide therapeutic, sports, pre- and post-natal, wellness, cupping, hot stone, ART, Thai massage, and more in a convenient, peaceful, downtown Ottawa location with free client parking. We are FSCO-registered and can bill your auto insurance company directly for treatment after a motor vehicle accident. We also bill directly to Great West Life and Green Shield. Our flagship office at 504 Kent Street in Ottawa is close to the Queensway and easy to reach by car, foot, bike or bus. Our satellite clinic in Almonte, Ontario is cozy and charming. Our online booking system makes it simple for you to reserve your appointment at any time. And our network of like-minded health professionals means we can refer you to practitioners in other fields who meet your needs for quality care. Step into the circle of care, at Body Poets.,,

8 thoughts on “The Thigh Who Loved Me

  1. Pingback: Tugging on My Hamstrings | Body Poets Massage Therapy

  2. Pingback: Running Pains: Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome | Body Poets Massage Therapy

  3. Reblogged this on Body Poets Massage Therapy and commented:

    While watching the 23rd Olympic Games, you’ll notice the amazing quadriceps muscles of the winter athletes. For all of us, the quads are essential to movement, but thigh and knee pain can be caused by dysfunction in any of the four quadriceps muscles. This post looks at some of the reasons for this pain and ways to restore function.

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