Gracilis Muscle: Hip, Upper Thigh and Knee Pain

Contents of Article:

Where is the gracilis muscle?

It attaches to the pubic bone, travels down the inside of the thigh and connects to the shin bone (tibia).


What movements does the gracilis muscle control?

  • Moves the thigh inward toward the body (adduction)
  • Assists in twisting the knee in toward the body (medial rotation)
  • Assists in bending the knee (flexion)

Gracilis Muscle Anatomy page has origin, insertion, innervation, and blood supply information.

Gracilis Muscle Pain

The gracilis muscle lies just under the skin on the inside of the thigh. The muscle can cause burning stinging pain in segments or along the entire length of the muscle. These sensations are caused by trigger points in the muscle.

Sudden sharp pain is associated with a muscle strain. Gracilis muscle strains can happen anywhere along the length of the muscle but are most common in the groin or on the inside of the knee where the muscle attaches to the bone.

The pain of trigger points and a gracilis muscle strain share some symptoms but treatment methods are different. It is important to understand the differences so you can apply the appropriate treatment.


Gracilis Trigger Points Signs and Symptoms

The gracilis muscle can develop trigger points throughout the length of the muscle. Unlike other TrPs found in other muscles the pain and discomfort from a gracilis trigger point remains localized, it does not refer to other areas of the muscle or the body.

A strong indication of gracilis trigger points is the constant discomfort and pain. Whether you are sitting, laying down, or standing, you can feel it. Finding a pain free position can seem impossible. Walking will sometimes bring some relief.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Constant burning or stinging sensation in segments or along the entire length of the muscle
  • Burning stinging sensations can be paired an aching pain
  • Pain increases when you lift your leg with a straightened knee
Gracilis muscle pain pattern

Gracilis Muscle Pain Pattern: A constant burning stinging pain on the inside of the upper thigh that can extend down into the knee.

What Activities Contribute To Trigger Points In The Gracilis?

  • Sitting cross-legged and in the lotus pose puts enormous strain on the sartorius.
  • Sleeping on your back or stomach with one leg straight and the other leg bent at the knee and its foot turned in toward the straight leg
  • Slipping or taking a misstep

Trigger points often develop after an injury to the muscle.

Woman sleeping

Sleeping in this position whether on your back as shown here or on your stomach can contribute to problems in the gracilis muscle.

How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The Gracilis Muscle

  • If the inside of your thighs tighten while sitting cross-legged or in the lotus position take a break, straighten and shake out your legs
  • Warm up before sports and exercise
  • When horseback riding, get off occasionally and walk
  • When walking on slick surfaces, pay attention to your steps. Don’t slip, don’t fall!

Gracilis Trigger Point Treatment

The gracilis muscle is located just under the skin and it is easy to treat its trigger points. If you would like to learn how to self-treat trigger points The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is an excellent book to teach you all about finding and treating them. It takes time, patience, and practice to learn how to find TrPs but once you learn you will be able to treat muscle pain throughout the body.

Another option is finding someone trained in trigger point therapy to help you find specific TrPs and how to treat them. Many massage therapists, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and chiropractors are trained in this specific therapy. Be sure to ask if they have training before making an appointment.

Trigger point therapy is most effective when the TrPs are treated several times during the day for 1-2 minutes per treatment. Consistency is important for optimal treatment outcome.

TWD Suggestions For Gracilis Trigger Points

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is the best resource to learn how to treat and manage your muscle pain. Learn the methods and have the knowledge to relieve muscle pain throughout the body.

Buy at Amazon

Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is highly recommended for trigger point and chronic pain relief. It relaxes the muscles without the burning heat of other creams. (not sold in stores)

Buy at Amazon

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel cools the area much like ice discouraging inflammation. If you are dealing with burning and stinging sensations, Biofreeze may work better than warming gels.

Buy at Amazon

The ComfiLife Knee Pillow was developed for side sleepers to legs aligned with hips and spine while you sleep. It can be used to ease sensitivity in the knee that  is associated with the gracilis muscle.

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How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

You may feel relief with just a few treatments, most likely within a few days. Being consistent with your treatment is important as well as continuing treatments until the trigger point(s) are gone.

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

Satellite trigger points associated with the gracilis muscle:

If you find trigger points in the gracilis muscle it is likely you will find trigger points in some or all of these muscles.

Gracilis and Pes Anserinus Bursitis/ Tendonitis

Tenderness and swelling on the inside of the knee may be pes anserinus bursitis or tendonitis.

The pes anserinus is the area on the inside of the knee where the tendons of the sartorius, gracilis, and semitendinosus muscles connect to the shin bone.

Pes Anserinus Tendonitis occurs when the tendons become inflamed.

Pes Anserinus Bursitis describes the inflammation of the bursa, a gel-filled sac, that is located between the shin bone (tibia) and the tendons of the sartorius, gracilis, and semitendinosus muscles.

Interesting facts about the gracilis muscle:

  • It is the second longest muscle in the body.
  • Tissue is taken from the gracilis for reconstructive surgery.
  • It lies immediately under the skin.

Gracilis Muscle Pain and Symptoms Can Be Similar To, Contribute To, and Be Affected By These Medical diagnoses:

  • Hip joint disease
  • Pulled groin
  • Pubic Stress symphysitis
  • L2 L3 or L4 radiculopathy


Gracilis Muscle Strain Pain

If you have strained your gracilis muscle, you know immediately. You will feel a pulling, tearing or popping sensation. The pain can range from mild to agonizing. Muscle strains are rated by grades which are determined by the number of muscle fibers torn.

Grade 1 is also called a mild strain. With a grade 1 strain, a small number of muscle or tendon fibers are torn. You may feel an initial sharp pain, but a pulling sensation is most commonly felt. Redness or mild bruising and swelling may develop. There will be some lingering pain and discomfort, but your normal daily activities are usually not affected.

Grade 2 strains are moderate strains and a significant number of fibers are torn. The pain is sharp and is felt immediately and may be accompanied by a hard pulling, tearing or popping sensation. Redness, bruising and swelling may be noticed soon after the injury or may develop over the course of the following hours or days. Your leg will likely feel weak and you will probably limp. The initial pain will be enough to make you stop what you are doing. Daily activities can be affected by pain, discomfort, and limping.

Grade 3 strains are severe strains in which most or all the fibers of the muscle or tendon are torn. The pain will be immediate and agonizing. A popping or tearing sensation will likely be felt when the injury occurs. Putting weight on the leg will be painful or in the case of a complete tear may be impossible. The leg will feel very weak. Swelling and bruising are visible soon after the injury. Most daily activities will be affected.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Pulling, tearing, or popping sensation felt when the injury occurs
  • Moving the leg will make the pain worse
  • The leg is painful and feels weak when you put weight on it
  • The area around the injury may turn red and feel warm to touch
  • Bruising and swelling are visible soon after the injury
  • A bump or indentation may be felt at the injury location
Kicking muscle man

High kicks in which the hip and the knee are fully straightened (extension), can overstretch the gracilis muscle and cause a muscle strain. 

What Causes A Gracilis Strain?

Gracilis strains occur in sports and activities that require quick changes in direction that twist the hip, thigh, and knee. Contact sports can also cause strains if the muscle takes a direct hit, the leg is stepped on or another player falls on the upper leg.

Over-use of the muscle, muscle fatigue, repeating a motion over and over, and pushing the muscle past its flexibility will also cause strain tears.

Sports and activities that contribute to gracilis injury:

  • Contact Sports
    • Football players
    • Soccer players
    • Rugby
    • Hockey players
  • Over-use and Repetitive Motions
    • Gymnastics
    • Dancing
    • Cycling
    • Gymnastics

Gracilis Muscle Strain Treatment

Gracilis muscle strains are rare but do happen. Most strains are mild to moderate and can be treated at home using the P.R.I.C.E. protocol. Use the protocol steps for the first 24-72 hours until the pain and swelling decrease.

Begin the P.R.I.C.E. protocol as soon as possible:
  • Protect – If the strain is moderate to severe, restrict movement and stabilize the thigh using an elastic bandage or Velcro wrap.
  • Rest – Limit motion and weight bearing. Extra sleep is also important because the healing takes place during rest and sleep.
  • Ice – Ice and cold packs decrease pain and swelling. Use packs every 1-2 hours for 20 minutes per treatment. Leaving packs in place for longer is not recommended because soft tissue damage may occur.
  • Compression – To discourage swelling and to provide support to the injury apply moderate pressure using an elastic bandage or Velcro wrap.
  • Elevation – Raising the leg with pillows reduces pain, swelling and encourages circulation.

Swelling will usually begin to decrease in 48-72 hours. Once swelling begins to reduce, you will start to alternate cold and warm treatments. Begin with cold treatment for 20 minutes, wait for 1-2 hours and apply a warm treatment for 20 minutes. Do not apply treatments back to back.

When to see a doctor:

  • Intolerable pain levels
  • Rapid and excessive swelling and bruising
  • You are not able to move the leg or unable to put weight on the leg
  • Swelling, pain, redness, and heat have not lessened within 24-48 hours

How Long Does It Take A Gracilis Strain To Heal?

  • Mild or Grade I strains heal quickly usually within 1-3 weeks.
  • Moderate or Grade II strains healing times vary based on the number of fibers torn. Most heal in 4-12 weeks
  • Severe or Grade III strains require medical attention and can take anywhere from a few months up to a year to heal

TWD Suggestions For Gracilis Strains

The Simple Spectra Clay Hot/Cold Wrap can be placed and secured high on the thigh, providing hot or cold treatment as well as compression which is important for recovery. The wrap can also be used on other areas of the body.

Buy At Amazon

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel cools the area much like ice discouraging inflammation. Provides excellent pain relief between cold treatments. Recommended by medical professionals and trainers.

Buy At Amazon

The Odofit Support Brace has 3 adjustable straps that allow you to adjust the compression to your needs.  The waistband holds the brace in place. One of the best for moderate and severe thigh and groin pain and injury.

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Tips To Avoid Gracilis Strains

  • Always take a few minutes and warm up before sports and exercises
  • Cool down after exertion by walking around until your heart rate returns to normal and doing some easy stretches to help keep the leg muscles from becoming tight and sore
  • Wear shoes with the proper soles and stiffness/flexibility when participating in sports and other activities
  • If the muscle feels weak, sore, or is injured, take recovery days to rest and allow the muscle time to heal.

More Pain Relief and Support Suggestions from TWD:

These are the products that I recommend to runners, athletes, and those who deal with chronic pain. The products are well made and hold up to use. Plus they do their job!

If you are an athlete or exercise aficionado the Freeze Sleeve provides excellent cold compression treatments for upper leg muscles and knees. Keep on hand for post sports and exercise treatments.

Penetrex was formulated specifically to reduce inflammation. If you have strained a muscle and have swelling this is the cream to use. Also works well on joint inflammation caused by arthritis. Read and follow directions for best results.

The Vive Thigh Brace is another choice for adductor support and compression. The brace is adjustable and stays up on the leg well.  Provides warmth for muscle relaxation.

The Tiger Tail Roller is an excellent tool to roll out leg and foot muscles. The roller does not require upper body strength like a normal foam roller and can be easily used by anyone.

Donna Martin

Massage Therapist Owner: Twelve years of experience working with clients with chronic pain, post injury pain, and post surgery pain. Muscle dysfunction is often overlooked but can hold the key to many pain conditions.

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