+Donna Martin
Nov 112012

What symptoms and pain are associated with the rectus femoris muscle?

Rectus Femoris Pain Pattern

Pain in the knee traveling into the lower thigh and the inability to fully straighten your knee indicates quadricep muscle rectus femoris dysfunction.

  • Knee pain
  • Pain in the front of the thigh extending down into the inside of the knee
  • Inability to fully straighten knee
  • Pain walking down stairs
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Sharp pain deep in the front of the thigh while sleeping

Where is the Rectus Femoris muscle?

The rectus femoris runs down the front of the thigh¸ from the hip bone to the knee. The rectus femoris is one of four quadriceps muscles.

What movements does the rectus femoris muscle control?

  • Straightens the leg at the knee

Activities that cause rectus femoris pain and symptoms:

  • Cycling
  • Climbing
  • Running and power walking
  • Swimming
  • Kicking a football or soccer ball
  • Swimming
  • Wearing high heel shoes
  • Sitting excessively
  • Tight hamstrings

Interesting facts about the rectus femoris: Knee Bugs

Rectus Femoris Muscle

You use the rectus femoris when you straighten your knee.

The rectus femoris is responsible for the condition known as ‘knee bugs’. Knee bugs is a creepy crawly type feeling and pain that occurs under the knee cap. This condition is caused by a trigger point in the rectus femoris.

Clinical diagnoses to which this muscle symptoms may contribute:

  • Patella femoral dysfunction
  • Floating Patella
  • Subluxation / Dislocation of the knee
  • Buckling knee (trick knee)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament sprain or tear
  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament sprain or tear
  • Torn meniscus (cartilage)
  • Quadriceps muscle tear
  • Sprain / Strain of the thigh or knee
  • Iliotibial tract friction syndrome
  • Tendinitis
  • Bursitis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Phantom limb pain

Other muscles that should be considered and examined in conjunction with the rectus femoris muscle:

Satellite Trigger Points: Iliopsoas, Vastus Medialis, Vastus Intermedius, Vastus Lateralis, Sartorius

Affected Organ Systems: Digestive System

For detailed anatomy information see:  Rectus Femoris Anatomy: Origin, Insertion, Action, Innervation

Help with Rectus Femoris Quadriceps Muscle Pain

Sombra Warm Therapy Gel provides pain relief.

Warm Therapy Gel for Quadriceps Muscle Pain

Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is a pain relieving gel that I use both personally and in my massage therapy practice. It provides warmth without burning heat and is great for relieving pain.  Applying Sombra to the muscles down the front of the thigh into the knee can help reduce pain and tightness caused by the rectus femoris muscles. I recommend Sombra for chronic pain and chronically sore tight muscles.

Cold Therapy Gel For Rectus Femoris Injury and Pain

Biofreeze is recommended for recent muscle injury

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is an excellent pain relieving gel and I recommend it for those who have sudden onset muscle pain or recent injuries.  It is better to use than warm therapy gels and creams for muscle pain caused by inflammation as it cools the area much like ice. A recent study showed that Biofreeze decreased pain 2 times more than ice and the pain relief lasts 9 – 10 longer. If  your pain is from a recently pulled quadriceps muscle I would recommend Biofreeze.

Cold And Warm Pack For Quadriceps  Muscles

Thigh or Quad Ice Wrap by Active Wrap 
The  Thigh or Quad Ice Wrap by Active Wrap can be used for warm or cold therapy. I like this pack because it can be adjusted and can be worn while you are up and moving. If you have chronically tight muscles in the front of the thigh I suggest using this for heat. However, if the pain is caused from a recent injury I always recommend cold for 20 minutes several times a day.  Remember if you are using cold therapy to only apply for 20 minutes per hour to avoid tissue damage.


Braces and Supports To Help Rectus Femoris Injury and Pain


McDavid Thigh Brace Wrap covers the thigh and can be used for quadriceps support or rehabilitation. This support works well  for total thigh support as it covers most of the thigh.  Provides great compression and warmth to help maintain muscle mobility and reduce pain.

Sizing: SM 18 to 20 inches, Med 20 to 22 inches,  LG  22 to 25 inches, XL  25 to 28 inches.


McDavid Groin Wrap is recommended for high quadriceps and groin pulls. This strap also works well  for people who have pulled a quad muscle up high near the groin and need additional support. The strap in addition to the knee brace gives support along the length of the muscle. The strap has an adjustable Velcro closure so you can adjust the pressure as needed.



Professional’s Choice Miracle Knee Support

The rectus femoris can contribute to stiff and painful knees. The Professional Choice Knee Support is one of the best knee braces I have used. It provides support to weak buckling knees and provides heat to help keep the muscle, ligaments, tendons and joint mobile. The two Velcro bands are adjustable and provide compression for the muscle to bone connection of the quadriceps muscles in the lower leg.  Although it looks bulky, it is comfortable and was made for people who ride horses who must maintain the ability to  bend and straighten their knees for extended periods of time. It does not bind or pinch. If you are prone to knee pain and buckling knees I highly recommend this brace. Purchase Information:  Professional’s Choice Miracle Knee Support

Massage Tools for Self Treatment of the Hamstring Muscles


I recommend the  Tiger Tail 18″ Roller to use on both upper and lower leg muscles to help relieve tension and pain. I like the Tiger Tail for its ease of use and because it does not strain the wrists and hands. You do not have to contort into different positions or get on the floor or up against the wall to use this foam roller, simply roll it up or down the muscle. The 18″ is a good size to use on leg muscles as well as other muscles. The roller is also recommended by physical therapists, athletic trainers and doctors for self treatment of muscles in between appointments. To use the Tiger Tail on the rectus femoris muscles start just above the knee and roll up covering the front of the thigh. Cover the entire front  including just to the inside and outside of the front thigh. Start with light strokes for a minute or two and build into more pressure and more time. Do not overdo as you can irritate the muscles!


Self Treatment for Rectus Femoris Thigh and Knee Pain

The Trigger Point Workbook can help you resolve muscle pain throughout your body.

Do you know that small knots in the rectus femoris muscle can contribute to the inability to straighten the knee, pain walking down stairs and restless leg syndrome?

If this pain pattern sounds familiar  I  recommend that you purchase Claire Davies  The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. Mr. Davies explain the trigger point phenomenon and muscle pain in everyday language.  But what makes this book worth its weight in gold are the individual muscle trigger point treatments that Davies has compiled. His diagrams and step by step instructions help you locate which muscles are contributing to your pain and how to find the trigger point and treat it. He also provides stretching and strengthening exercises for each muscle.  It takes time and practice to master finding trigger points, but once you learn you have a tool and method to help relieve muscle pain throughout the body.  If you have unresolved knee pain, are unable to straighten your knee, or suffer with restless legs, it maybe trigger points in the rectus femoris muscle. Deactivating trigger points can reduce or eliminate this pain. This book is a must have for anyone interested in finding the cause and treating muscle pain.

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