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Quadriceps Vastus Intermedius Muscle: Thigh Pain and Buckling Knees

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

What are the pain and symptoms associated with the vastus intermedius muscle ?

  • Pain down the middle of the front of the thigh
  • Pain increases when walking
  • Contributes to weak buckling knees
  • Pain greatly increases when climbing stairs
  • Problems straightening the knee after sitting
  • Stiffness in the knee causes a limp

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?

  • Straightens the leg at the knee

Activities that cause vastus intermedius pain and symptoms:

  • Climbing
  • Running
  • Over exercise of the quadriceps muscles
  • Overuse of the knee
  • Sitting for long periods of time


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.

Clinical diagnoses to which the vastus intermedius muscle symptoms may contribute:

  • 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 :

  • Rectus Femoris
  • Vastus Lateralis
  • Vastus Medialis
  • Biceps Femoris
  • Semimembranosus
  • Semitendinosus
  • Tensor Fascia Latae
  • Iliopsoas

For detailed anatomy information:  Vastus Intermedius Anatomy

Help with Vastus Intermedius Quadriceps Muscle Pain

Cold Therapy Gel For Vastus Intermedius Injury and Pain

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 or injured vastus intermedius muscle I would recommend Biofreeze. For vastus intermedius pain rub the gel from the top of the front of the thigh down to below the knee.

Hot /Cold Pack For Quad Muscles

The Simple Spectra Clay Hot/Cold Wrap is a good choice to provide cold or warm therapy to the vastus intermedius and other quadricep muscles The wrap not only provides a consistent temperature but also provides compression which is important for reducing swelling and aiding in faster recovery. The wrap can also be used on other areas of the body.

Warm Therapy Gel for Vastus Intermedius Muscle Pain

Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is a pain relieving gel that is highly recommended. It provides warmth without burning heat and is great for relieving pain. Applying Sombra to the muscles on the front of the thigh, down into the knee can help reduce pain and tightness caused by the vastus intermedius muscle. I recommend Sombra for chronic pain and chronically sore tight quadriceps muscle

Braces and Supports To Help Vastus Intermedius Injury and Pain

Thigh Wrap For Vastus Intermedius Support and Compression

Thigh Brace by Vive covers the thigh and can be used for quadricep and hamstring support and rehabilitation. Secured with two velco fastners, the latex-free neoprene provides support and stays comfortably in place. The wrap provides great compression and warmth to help maintain muscle mobility and reduce pain.

Compression Leggings for Vastus Intermedius Muscle Support

Compression wear is not just preventative wear for exercise. Compression wear can also aid in muscle injury support and reduce swelling during recovery time. If you are considering compression wear look for graduated compression. Graduated compression provides tight compression at the lower end of your limb and gradually decreases compressive force toward the top of the limb. This is important for circulation and inflammation reduction. To support the vastus intermedius muscle it is important that you use leggings that go down past the knee so you treat the full length of the muscle. Compression leggings for men as well compression leggings for women come in all sizes, have a choice of colors and are available in various price points. The leggings can be worn alone or under pants.

Men's Leggings
Women's Leggings

Self Treatment Tools For Vastus Intermedius Pain

I recommend The Tiger Tail 18″ Roller to use on both upper and lower leg muscles to help relieve muscle 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 vastus intermedius muscle 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!

Massage Self Treatment for Vastus Intermedius Thigh and Knee Pain

Do you know that small knots in the vastus intermedius muscle can contribute to pain in the front of the thigh and stiff buckling knees?

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 explains 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. 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 and weak buckling knees, it maybe trigger points in the vastus intermedius 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.