The gracilis is a thin muscle that runs from the pubic bone down the thigh to the top of the lower leg. Trigger points in the gracilis can cause burning, stinging pain along the entire length of the muscle.

Sudden sharp pain is associated with a gracilis muscle strain. Muscle strains can happen anywhere along the length of the muscle. However, gracilis strains usually occur in the groin or on the inside of the knee.

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

Contents of Article

    Where Is The Gracilis Muscle?

    Gracilis Muscle Showing Trigger Point Locations

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

    What Movements Does It 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 Trigger Point Symptoms:

    Gracilis Referred Pain Pattern

    Unlike other TrPs found in other muscles, the pain and discomfort from gracilis trigger points remain localized and do not refer to other areas of the gracilis muscle or the body.

    A strong indication of gracilis trigger points is the constant discomfort and pain. Whether you are sitting, lying 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 with an aching pain
    • Pain increases when you lift your leg with a straightened knee

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    What Causes Trigger Points To Develop In The Gracilis?

    • Sitting with legs crossed for long periods of time
    • Horseback riding
    • Skiing
    • Slipping or a misstep
    • Doing the splits

    Trigger points often develop as a result of a muscle strain.

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    How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The Gracilis

    • 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!

    Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice for pain caused by trigger points, muscle/joint over-use and stiffness, and arthritis. (Not sold in stores)

    Biofreeze Professional Gel is for the pain and symptoms of muscle strains. It provides excellent pain relief and may help reduce inflammation caused by a strain. It is recommended by medical professionals and trainers. 

    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 trigger point 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 in your treatment plan is important for an optimal treatment outcome.

    How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

    You may feel relief with just a few treatments, most likely within a few days. Stay consistent with your treatment, and continue treatments until the trigger point(s) are gone.

    Interesting facts:

    • The gracilis 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


    Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

    Satellite trigger points associated with the gracilis muscle:

    Trigger points in a muscle often produce TrPs in other muscles known as satellite trigger points. If trigger points are found in the gracilis, check these muscles:


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    Gracilis Muscle Strain

    If you have strained your gracilis muscle, you know it immediately. You will feel a pulling, tearing, or popping sensation. The pain can range from mild to unbearable. 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 tear. 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 tear. 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 develop over 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 tear. 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, with swelling and bruising visible soon after the injury. Most daily activities will be affected. Grade 3 strains require medical care and may require surgery.

    Symptoms of a Gracilis Strain:

    • Pulling, tearing, or popping sensation felt when the injury occurs
    • Moving the leg will make the pain worse
    • The affected 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

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    What Causes Gracilis Strains?

    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 muscle strains if the muscle takes a direct hit, the upper leg is stepped on, or another player falls on the upper leg.

    Over-use of the muscle, muscle fatigue, repeating a motion repeatedly, 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 players
      • Hockey players
    • Over-use and Repetitive Motions
      • Gymnastics
      • Dancing
      • Cycling
      • Gymnastics

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    Gracilis Muscle Strain Treatments

    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.

    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. Remember to get extra sleep because the healing takes place during rest and sleep.

    Ice – Ice and cold packs decrease pain and swelling. Use cold packs every 1-2 hours for 20 minutes per treatment. Using cold for longer than 20 minutes is not recommended because soft tissue damage may occur.

    Compression – To discourage swelling and 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.

    The swelling will usually begin to decrease in 48-72 hours. Once the swelling has reduced, you will start to alternate cold and warm treatments. Begin with cold pack treatment for 20 minutes, wait for 1-2 hours, and apply a warm pack treatment for 20 minutes. Do not apply hot and cold 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 48 hours

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    TheraICE Rx Hot & Cold Therapy provides 360 degree cold and warm therapy. The sleeve provides compression, which helps reduce inflammation and pain. Recommended for upper/lower leg and knee treatments.

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

    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.

    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 do 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.

    Muscles with similar pain patterns

    Sartorius Muscle