The vastus medialis muscle causes pain in the front and inside of the thigh that usually includes the knee. The two most common reasons for pain in the muscle is trigger points and muscle strain. Muscle strains and trigger point pain have some similarities but require different treatments. It is important to understand the pain symptoms of a strain and the pain pattern of trigger points to determine a treatment plan.

Pain caused by a muscle strain can occur anywhere along the muscle, which runs from just under the hip joint to the knee.

Trigger point pain tends to concentrate in the knee but can radiate up into the front and inside of the thigh. A classic symptom of trigger points in the vastus medialis is a weak buckling knee.

Contents of Article

    Where Is The Vastus Medialis Muscle?

    Vastus Medialis Muscle Showing Trigger Point Locations

    The vastus medialis muscle attaches to the thigh bone (femur) below the hip joint and travels down to attach to the knee (patella) and shin bone (tibia).

    What Movements Does It Control?

    The vastus medialis straightens the leg at the knee and helps to stabilize the kneecap (patella).


    For detailed anatomy information:  Vastus Medialis Muscle Anatomy


    Vastus Medialis Trigger Points Symptoms:

    Vastus Medialis Referred Pain Pattern

    Trigger points in the vastus medialis affect the knee and cause pain to radiate inside the lower thigh. Signs and symptoms include:

    • Pain on the inside of the lower knee extending up into the inside and front of the lower thigh
    • Persistent pain in the knee joint
    • The knee feels weak
    • Can cause the knee to ‘buckle’ (trick knee)
    • A tendency to walk with toes turned out
    • People often sleep with a pillow between the knees to relieve the pain.

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

    What Causes Trigger Points To Develop In The Vastus Medialis?

    • Runners and joggers frequently develop TrPs in the muscle
    • Activities that require repetitive kneeling
    • Deep knee bends (think squats)
    • Over-doing exercises on step masters, elliptical machines
    • Walking downstairs and inclines
    • Weak ankles that tend to collapse toward the inside
    • Walking with your body weight distributed on the outside of your foot

    Also, keep in mind that trigger points often develop as or after an injury to the leg, hip, abdomen, and lower back.

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    How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The Vastus Medialis

    • Take time to warm up before exercise and other strenuous activities.
    • Take time to stretch out upper and lower leg muscles after running and exercise.
    • When walking downstairs or inclines, make sure your foot lands straight, not turned in or out
    • Ease into deep squats, don’t try and go past your muscles limits
    • If you have persistent weakness in the ankles, seek out a professional trainer to help you strengthen and balance foot, lower and upper leg muscles. Consider using an ankle brace for extra support.

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    ASO Stabilizing Ankle Brace is a support for ankles that is recommended by doctors, physical therapists, and athletic trainers. The brace is adjustable to provide not only support but also comfort. It also provides support for the heel and arch. This brace is excellent for those who suffer from weak ankles that tend to roll in or out.

    Vastus Medialis Trigger Point Treatment

    Trigger points in the vastus medialis are fairly easy to treat. Trigger point therapy is most effective when the TrPs are treated several times during the day for 1-2 minutes per treatment. Consistency is essential for optimal treatment outcomes.
    The easiest way to learn about specific trigger points is to find a physical therapist, massage therapist, or chiropractor with trigger point therapy training. A trained professional can show you how to find and treat the TrPs.

    Another option is to learn to self-treatment. It is not hard to learn, but it takes a little time and patience to learn the feel and locations of TrPs. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is one of the best resources to learn how to find and treat your trigger points. The nice thing about learning self-treatment is you will then have the skills to relieve and possibly eliminate many other types of muscle pain.

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    How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

    Symptoms often decrease quickly, with noticeable relief in as little as 2-5 days. The key to successful trigger point treatment is consistency and continuing treatment until the trigger points are completely gone.

    Interesting facts:

    • A trigger point in the vastus medialis can cause the knee to buckle unexpectedly. If this trigger point is not released and the muscle is stretched to try and relieve symptoms, knee pain and knee weakness will worsen.
    • Pain, weakness, and buckling in the knee are often diagnosed as knee arthritis, tendinitis, or ligament damage.

    Vastus medialis pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnoses:

    • Sprain or strain of the thigh or knee
    • Patella femoral dysfunction
    • Dislocation of the knee
    • Chondromalacia patella
    • Floating Patella
    • Buckling knee (trick knee)
    • Phantom leg pain with above-knee amputation
    • Anterior Cruciate Ligament sprain or tear (ACL)
    • Posterior Cruciate Ligament sprain or tear (PCL)
    • Torn meniscus (cartilage)
    • Iliotibial tract friction syndrome
    • L2 L3 or L4 radiculopathy


    Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

    Satellite trigger points associated with the vastus medialis muscle:

    If you find trigger points in the vastus medialis it is likely you will find trigger points in some or all of these muscles:

    • Tensor Fasciae Latae
    • Iliopsoas
    • Peroneus Longus
    • Gluteus Medius
    • Adductor Longus
    • Adductor Brevis
    • Rectus Femoris

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    Doctors and physical therapists often recommend TENS to relax the muscles and ease the pain. The Belifu TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator is highly recommended and an excellent choice for treating quadriceps and hamstrings muscle pain.

    Vastus Medialis Strain

    Pain caused by a vastus medialis muscle strain is sudden and felt at the time it happens. A muscle strain can occur at any point in the muscle. The pain can occur anywhere from the top of the front of the thigh down to the knee.

    A mild (Grade I) strain happens when a few fibers in the muscle tear. A twinging or pulling sensation is felt when it happens. There may be discomfort, but it usually does not affect your normal activities. Some redness, minor bruising, and swelling may occur.

    A moderate strain (Grade II) involves the tearing of a significant number of muscle fibers. The pain is immediate, and you may feel a popping or tearing sensation in the muscle. Pain and weakness will likely cause a limp and will affect many activities. Depending on the severity of the tear redness, bruising, and swelling may be visible right away or develop over the following hours and days.

    Severe strains (Grade III) occur when most or all the fibers of the muscle tear. The pain is immediate and incapacitating, often causing you to fall or immediately go to the ground. Putting weight on the leg will be extremely painful or impossible. Redness, bruising, and swelling are often visible right away.

    Symptoms of a Vastus Medialis Strain:

    • Mild strains will cause a twinging or pulling sensation. Pain and discomfort are mild.
    • Moderate and severe strains – a pop and/or tearing sensation felt in the muscle. Pain is sharp and immediate.
    • The area around the strain may feel warm or even hot.
    • Tightening the muscles in the front of the thigh causes pain and discomfort.
    • Moving the leg can be painful.
    • Fully bending and especially straightening the knee is painful.
    • Walking is painful and will cause you to limp. It may be impossible to put weight on the leg if the strain is moderate or severe.
    • Redness and bruising develop on the inside of the thigh and knee.
    • Swelling around the area where the strain occurred.
    • A bump or indentation may be felt where the fiber tears occurred.

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    What Causes Vastus Medialis Strains?

    Vastus medialis strains usually occur during sports, activities, or exercise. The most common cause of a vastus medialis strain is a direct hit to the muscle in sports. Other common causes are sudden bursts of speed or sudden stops when running, quick changes in direction, and repetitive vertical jumping.
    People with weak ankles are prone to muscle strains, the development of trigger points, and pain in the vastus medialis muscle.
    Sports and activities that contribute to vastus medialis injury:

    • Contact Sports
      • Hockey
      • Rugby
      • Soccer
      • Football
      • Basketball
    • Over-use and Repetitive Motions
      • Running
      • Cycling
      • Skiing
      • Gymnastics
      • Exercises requiring deep knee bends
      • Walking or running down flights of stairs or steep inclines
      • Overuse of a Stairmaster or elliptical machine

    Vastus Medialis Strain Treatments

    The majority of vastus medialis strains are mild and moderate and can be safely treated at home using the P.R.I.C.E. protocol.
    Begin the P.R.I.C.E. protocol as soon as possible:

    • Protect – Use an Ace bandage or Velcro wrap to help stabilize and restrict movements of moderate and severe strains.
    • Rest – Rest the leg as much as possible. Rest also means allowing time for naps and extra sleep. Healing occurs while you are asleep.
    • Ice – To reduce swelling and pain, you should use ice packs every 1-2 hours until pain and swelling decrease. Leave the ice in place for 20 minutes per treatment; longer times may damage soft tissues.
    • Compression – Applying moderate pressure with an Ace bandage or Velcro wrap discourages swelling and provides support.
    • Elevation – Propping the leg up on pillows prevents fluids from accumulating around the injury and helps reduce pain and swelling.

    Once swelling, heat, and redness have diminished, begin alternating cold and heat treatments. Use cold for a 20-minute treatment, then wait 1-2 hours and apply heat for 20 minutes. Continue the P.R.I.C.E. protocol for 24-72 hours until the pain and swelling decrease.

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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. An excellent choice for hamstring and trigger point pain 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 Vastus Medialis Strain To Heal?

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

    Tips To Avoid Vastus Medialis Strains

    • Taking time to warm up properly can save days, weeks, and months of pain, discomfort, and downtime.
    • When walking or running down inclines or flights of stairs, keep your feet pointing straight ahead and try to avoid rolling the ankle and foot to the inside or outside.
    • If you have injured your ankle or have weak ankles consider using an ankle brace until the foot and lower leg muscles are strengthened.
    • If the muscle feels weak, sore, or is injured, take recovery days to rest and allow the muscle time to heal. Take recovery days. Give the muscles time to recover and heal.

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    Muscles with similar pain patterns

    Rectus Femoris
    Vastus Intermedius