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Quadriceps Vastus Intermedius Muscle: Thigh Pain and Buckling Knees

(Last Updated On: September 2, 2018)

Pain down the front thigh and buckling weak knees indicate vastus intermedius dysfunction.

Vastus Intermedius Muscle Muscle Pain: Signs and Symptoms

The vastus intermedius muscle contributes to pain in the front of the thigh that can start up high in the fold of the leg and descend down to the knee. The pain tends to localize in the middle to upper part of the thigh. Pain increases when you walk and your knee may feel weak with a tendency to buckle. If you have been sitting for a while, you will find it difficult to straighten the knee when you stand.

Two indicators of vastus intermedius muscle dysfunction are stiffness in the knee so severe that it causes you to limp. The other is your pain greatly increases when you are climbing stairs or walking up an incline.

Where is the vastus intermedius muscle?

The vastus intermedius muscle attaches to the thigh bone (femur) just under the hip joint and extends down the inside front of the thigh and connect into the patellar tendon which connects to the lower leg (tibia).

What movements does the vastus intermedius muscle control?

It straightens (extends) the leg at the knee.

Activities that cause vastus intermedius pain and symptoms:

Sitting for extended periods of time will cause the muscle to shorten and become painful. Over exercising the quadriceps muscles especially those that require bending and straightening the knee tax the muscle. Runners, joggers and climbers often experience pain in the vastus intermedius muscle.


You use the vastus intermedius muscle to straighten the knee.

Interesting facts about the vastus intermedius:

The vastus intermedius lies directly under the rectus femoris but each muscle has its own pain pattern. The vastus intermedius pain is deep in the mid-thigh while the rectus femoris pain is toward the lower-end of the thigh and with a deep ache in the  knee.

Vastus Intermedius Muscle Pain and Symptoms Can Be Similar To, Contribute To, and Be Affected By These Medical Diagnosis:

  • Dislocation of the knee
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament sprain or tear
  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament sprain or tear
  • Torn meniscus
  • Patella femoral dysfunction
  • Chondromalacia patellae
  • Sprain or strain of the thigh
  • Sprain or strain of the knee
  • ACL sprain or tear
  • PCL sprain or tear
  • Iliotibial tract friction syndrome
  • Gout
  • Phantom leg pain with above knee amputation
  • L2 L3 or L4 radiculopathy

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

Satellite trigger points associated with the vastus intermedius :

For detailed anatomy information:  Vastus Intermedius Anatomy

Recommendations For Vastus Intermedius Muscle Pain Relief

Self Treatment For Vastus Intermedius Pain

Your weak buckling knees and pain in the front of the thigh may be caused by trigger points in the vastus intermedius muscle.

Trigger points are easily treated and do not require a lot of time, a few minutes several times a day and within a few days there will be a noticeable reduction in your pain. If you would like to try self treatment then I recommend using The Trigger Point Therapy WorkBook. The authors give detailed instructions on how to locate trigger points and how to treat them. Muscles are listed individually and the book is very user friendly. This is a book that I believe everyone should have in their possession. It can truly reduce your pain and change your life.

Easy To Use Foam Roller

The Tiger Tail Roller is a tool that recommend to everyone. It is easier to use for most people as you do not need a lot of upper body strength to roll your muscles. Though you cannot eliminate trigger points with this tool, it feels good to roll out the muscles and helps with relaxation and recovery. To use it on the vastus intermedius, start the roller high on the thigh and roll down to the top of the knee, do not roll the knee. Use it whenever the front or back of your thighs feel achy or tight. An even better idea is to use it several times a week to keep the muscles ‘in shape’.

Braces and Supports For The Vastus Intermedius

Compression on an achy sore muscle feels good. It also helps to support the muscle for recovery. A good compression brace for the thighs is The Thigh Brace by Vive. The brace is secured with two wide Velcro straps that allow you to adjust the compression to your needs. The lightweight neoprene not only supports but keeps the muscles warm reducing the chance of injury. A great choice for those who deal with tight thigh muscles.

If you don’t need a full brace but just something to give a little compression and support for walking, jogging, and other sports activities, the Sparthos Thigh Compression Sleeve will fit your needs. I really like these sleeves as they give great compression and stay in place, no slipping down or rolling up.

Braces For Weak Buckling Knees

The vastus intermedius muscle can contribute to knees that feel weak and knees that will buckle (give way). Buckling knees are dangerous, they often lead to falls. Here are two knee braces that I use and recommend.

If your knee buckles I recommend The BioSkin Wrap Around Compression Supportive Knee Brace. This brace is made to provide support to the kneecap (patella). It has an adjustable support strap that wraps around the kneecap which helps to stabilize it. I also recommend this brace if your kneecap often feels out of place or needs to pop to feel better.

The Professional's Choice Knee Support is the brace I recommend for weak knees, pain and stiffness. The brace provides support to each side of the knee which helps to stabilize the kneecap. It is great for arthritic knees as the neoprene material provide warmth. This is the brace I use the most because it is comfortable and it works!

Warm and Cold Gels For Pain Relief

Warm and Cold therapy gels can be godsends for muscle pain. The two I use and recommend are BioFreeze Cold Gel and Sombra Warming Gel.

BioFreeze works much like ice, it cools the area to discourage swelling/inflammation. I recommend BioFreeze for sudden onset pain, new injuries and muscle swelling. It is a great at reducing pain for hours at a time. It is also good to use after intense exercise as it will reduce pain and swelling.

Sombra works by warming the area to reduce pain and stiffness and to promote circulation. I recommend Sombra for post injury care (72 hours after injury), general soreness and stiffness, and chronic pain. It is great at reducing pain and can be used several times a day without blistering or irritating the skin. I think it works much better that other over the counter creams. It comfortably warms without the intense burning.

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