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(Last Updated On: March 19, 2019)

Sartorius Muscle: Hip, Upper Thigh and Knee Pain

Where is the sartorius muscle?

The sartorius muscle attaches to the hip bone (iliac spine), travels down the front of the thigh moving toward the inside of the thigh and connects to the inside of the shin bone (tibia). Because it attaches to the hip and knee, it initiates movement in both the hip and knee joints.

 

What movements does the sartorius muscle control?

  • Bends (flexion) the thigh at the hip. Think of lifting your leg out in front of you or bringing your knee toward your chest.
  • Twists the leg out and away from the other leg. (lateral rotation)
  • Bends the knee (flexion)
  • Twists the knee in toward your other leg. (medial rotation)

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

Sartorius Muscle Pain

The sartorius is known for two types of pain, burning sensations and sharp stabbing pain, both of which can occur anywhere along the length of the muscle. Because the sartorius muscle lies right below the skin, the pain and burning sensations will not be deep and in some instances may feel as if the pain is originating in the skin itself.

The burning stinging sensations are associated with trigger point development in the muscle. Though these sensations can be felt anywhere along the length of the muscle, they are most commonly felt on the inside of the knee.

Sudden sharp pain is an indicator of a muscle strain. If the strain is mild the pain may feel more like a cramp. Strains can occur at any point in the sartorius muscle.

Trigger point pain and pain caused by a muscle strain share some common symptoms but require different methods of treatment. It is important to understand the differences so you use the correct treatment technique.

 

Sartorius Trigger Points Signs and Symptoms

Trigger points in the sartorius can cause pain at many points in the muscle. Keep in mind that trigger points in this muscle do not radiate pain far from the trigger point. If you are experiencing pain near the hip the trigger point will be in the upper portion of the muscle. If the pain is near the knee, the TrP will be in the lower leg near the knee.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Burning and/or tingling along the muscle or segments of the muscle
  • Sharp stabbing pain that is felt just under the skin along the length of the muscle
  • Sharp pain when you step back too far
  • Sharp pain when you lift the leg behind the body
  • Sharp pain when you twist the knee
  • The inside of the knee may become hypersensitive
  • Sitting will relieve pain
  • Sleeping with a pillow between the knees relieves the pain
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Sartorius Muscle Referred Pain Pattern:  The sartorius contributes to stinging burning pain in the front and inside of the thigh. The inside of the knee can be sore and tender to pressure and touch.

What Activities Contribute To Trigger Points In The Sartorius?

  • Sitting cross-legged and in the lotus pose puts enormous strain on the sartorius.
  • Sitting with your legs up and crossed in a recliner or resting on an ottoman
  • Sleeping on your back or stomach with your legs crossed
  • Slipping or taking a misstep
  • Planting your foot and pivoting, making a sharp turn
  • Pushing off your foot hard to accelerate quickly
  • Sports and activities that require fast turns, pivots, quick acceleration, and extended strides

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

How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The Sartorius Muscle

  • If you habitually sit with your legs up, occasionally drop them down and rest your feet on the floor. Even better, get up and walk around.
  • Before walking, jogging, running, exercise, and participation in sports, take time to warm up and do some light stretches.
  • Take time to stretch out upper and lower leg muscles after running and exercise
  • When walking on slick surfaces, pay attention to your steps. Don't slip, don't fall!
  • If practicing yoga be aware that the tree pose, lotus pose, butterfly pose (stretch), and fire log pose are stressful for the sartorius muscle. Don't try to push beyond what your muscles are capable of doing.

Sartorius Trigger Point Treatment

Sartorius trigger points are easy to treat because the muscle lies just under the skin. Many massage therapists, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and chiropractors are trained in trigger point therapy. Having a trained professional find the TrPs and show you how to treat them is the easiest way to learn about the therapy and treatment.

If you have patience are willing to practice, you can learn the therapy.  The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is a great resource to learn about and how to treat TrPs. Once you learn the feel and where to look for trigger points you will be able to self-treat and reduce muscle pain throughout the body.

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 Sartorius 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.

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)

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.

The ComfiLife Knee Pillow was developed for side sleepers to legs aligned with hips and spine while you sleep. Works very well to relieve sartorius pain and burning while sleeping.

How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

Because the sartorius muscle lies just beneath the skin and the trigger points are easy to treat you may notice relieve after just a few treatments. The important thing to keep in mind is that consistency is the key and you must continue with treatment until the symptoms, as well as the trigger point, is gone.

Satellite trigger points associated with the sartorius muscle:

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

Sartorius and Pes Anserinus Bursitis/ Tendonitis

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 sartorius muscle:

  • The sartorius is the longest muscle in the body.
  • Sometimes called the tailor's muscle. Before sewing machines, many tailors would sit cross-legged while they sewed. Hours of sitting in this position produced pain along the sartorius muscle. Pain in the front of the hips, inner thighs, and knees was known to be commonplace for those in the tailor trade.

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

  • Floating Patella
  • Meniscus tear
  • Anterior cruciate ligament tear
  • Posterior cruciate ligament tear
  • L2 L3 or L4 radiculopathy
  • Meralgia Paresthetica

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Sartorius Muscle Strain Pain

A sartorius muscle strain's pain can range from a pulling sensation to excruciating pain. A strain can happen anywhere along the muscle which runs from the top of the hip to just below the knee. Muscles strains are recorded as three progressing grades determined by the number of muscle or tendon fibers that are torn during injury.

Grade 1 is a mild strain in which a small number of fibers are torn. Mild strains can produce a sharp pain but most commonly it is a feeling of tightness or a pulling sensation. Redness, minor bruising and swelling may occur.  Normal daily activities are generally not affected, though there may be some tenderness and discomfort in the muscle.

A Grade 2 strain is a moderate strain and a significant number of muscle or tendon fibers are torn. Immediate pain along with a hard pulling, popping or tearing sensation is often felt. The leg may feel weak and pain may cause you to limp. Redness, bruising, and swelling will likely develop over the following hours or days. Pain and weakness will make you stop whatever activity you were doing. Daily activities will likely be affected after injury.

Grade 3 is a severe strain and most or all of the muscle fibers are torn. Pain will be immediate and incapacitating. Bruising and swelling will be visible right away. Putting weight on the leg will be extremely painful and may be impossible due to pain and muscle weakness. Daily activities will be affected.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • The area around the injury may turn red and feel warm or hot when touched
  • Moving the leg may cause pain to intensify
  • The leg may feel weak during weight bearing
  • Walking is painful and you may limp
  • Putting weight on the leg is painful. If the strain is severe putting weight on the leg may be impossible
  • Redness and bruising develop on the inside of the thigh and/or knee.
  • Swelling around the area where the strain occurred.
  • A bump or indentation may be felt where the fiber tears occurred.
sleeping

Sleeping on your back or stomach with your legs crossed can contribute to the development of trigger points in the sartorius muscle.

What Causes A Sartorius Strain?

Sartorius strains most often occur in activities that require fast hard turns and quick acceleration. When you plant your foot to do a quick pivot there is a twisting motion in the hip and the knee which can cause a strain in the sartorius as well as other thigh muscles. Contact sports pose a risk if the muscle takes a direct hit or is mashed when another player falls on the upper leg.

Another common contributor to strain is over-use and repetitive motions. The muscle becomes stressed and fatigued after repeatedly do a motion over and over, leaving muscles fibers vulnerable to tears.

Sports and activities that contribute to sartorius injury:

  • Contact Sports
    • Hockey
    • Rugby
    • Soccer
    • Football
    • Basketball
  • Over-use and Repetitive Motions
    • Running
    • Cycling
    • Skiing
    • Gymnastics
    • Swimmers - the constant kicking motion can overwork the sartorius
    • Exercises requiring deep knee bends

Sartorius Strain Treatment

Most sartorius strains are mild or 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 - Stabilize and restrict movement of the thigh and knee with an Ace bandage or Velcro wrap if the strain is moderate or severe.
  • Rest - Rest the leg as much as possible. Healing takes place during rest and sleep. Plan for naps and extra sleep at night.
  • Ice - Use ice packs every 1-2 hours until pain and swelling start to decrease. Leave ice in place for 20 minutes per treatment. Using cold treatment longer 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.

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 Sartorius Strain To Heal?

  • Mild Grade I strains heal quickly usually within1-3 weeks
  • Moderate Grade II strains varies depending on the number of fibers torn. Most heal in 4-12 weeks
  • Severe Grade III strains require medical attention and can take anywhere from a few months up to a year to heal

TWD Suggestions For Sartorius 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.

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.

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.

Tips To Avoid Sartorius Strains

  • Before sports, exercise, and other strenuous activities take time to warm up
  • Take a few minutes to stretch and cool down after activities
  • Wear proper shoes with the right soles for sports and other activities
  • Avoid stiff and hard soled shoes
  • 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:

The products below are products I use regularly and recommend for sartorius and other thigh muscles injury.

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.

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