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(Last Updated On: October 25, 2018)

Semimembranosus Muscle Pain: Signs and Symptoms

The pain caused by a semimembranosus strain is sudden, sharp and is usually felt just before your foot hits the ground. Trigger point pain is usually more of an ache but can become sharp with certain movements of the thigh and/or knee.

Semimembranosus Strain Injury Signs:

  • Sensations of pulling, tearing, or popping is felt in the back of the thigh
  • A mild pull or strain will cause moderate pain, you can put weight on the leg
  • A severe strain will make putting weight on the leg excruciatingly painful and walking will be difficult or impossible
  • The back of the thigh is very tender to touch
  • Swelling and bruising appear
  • There is a feeling of weakness in the thigh
  • Muscle spasm is common

Semimembranosus Trigger Points Signs and Pain

  • Pain starts just below the buttock and travels down the back of the thigh occasionally going into the back of the knee and/or the top of the calf
  • Walking, jogging, and running increases pain
  • Lifting and carrying heavy items intensifies pain
  • Deep aching pain is felt in the back of the thigh and/or knee when standing after sitting
  • While sleeping a deep aching pain down the back of the thigh is often felt
  • The muscle may spasm


Semimembranosus Pain Pattern: Pain below the buttock traveling down the inside leg to the knee and occasionally into the calf.

What happens when you sit too much

Prolonged sitting creates an imbalance in the thigh muscles.  The quadriceps which are located in the front of the thigh become short and tight. The hamstrings located in the back of the thigh, which includes the semimembranosus,  become  overly elongated and stretched.

This imbalance contributes to low back pain, pelvis, hip, upper leg, and knee pain. It also makes the hamstrings and quadriceps more vulnerable to injury.


Where is the semimembranosus muscle located?

The semimembranosus is one of three hamstring muscles found in the back of the thigh. The semimembranosus is the most medial (closest to the inside of the thigh) of the hamstrings. Most of the muscle lies beneath another hamstring muscle, the semitendinosus.

The semimembranosus muscle connects to the pelvis (ischial tuberosity), traveling down the thigh, to connect to the head of the shin bone (tibia).

What movements does the semimembranosus muscle control?

The primary movement of the semimembranosus is straightening the thigh at the hip (extention). It also bends the knee (flexion), and twists the thigh in toward the other leg (medial rotation).

Semimembranosus origin, insertion, action, innervation.

You use the semimembranosus muscle to straighten the thigh, bend your knee, and twist the leg in toward your body.

Semitendinosus Anatomy Info

Looking for detailed muscle anatomy? The Semitendinosis Anatomy page has origin, insertion, innervation and blood supply information. It also lists agonist and antagonists for each muscle action.


What causes semimembranosus strain injury?

When the muscle is stretched beyond its limit and/or when the exertion of movements or actions go beyond what the muscle is capable of handling, tears occur in the muscle and/or tendon fibers which is a muscle strain.
Actions that can cause a strain:

  • When walking, jogging, or running over-extending your stride
  • Pushing off your foot to quickly accelerate while running
  • Making a hard pivot or turn while your foot is planted
  • Twisting the thigh and/or knee when you misstep

Athletes often injure the semimembranosus and the other hamstring muscles. Poor conditioning, not taking time for a proper warm up, and muscle fatigue are contributing factors to strains.

Sports and activities that contribute to semimembranosus strains:

  • Football
  • Soccer
  • Hockey
  • Basketball
  • Volleyball
  • Runners especially sprinters
  • Hurdlers
  • Cyclists
  • Swimmers

Note: Preteens and teens are highly susceptible to hamstring muscle strains as the bones often grow faster than the muscles.

What causes trigger points to develop in the semimembranosus muscle:

  • Sitting for long periods of time cause the muscles to stay in an extended stretch
  • Sitting on a chair or bench with a hard edge that pushes into the back of the leg
  • Sitting on a surface where your legs dangle and feet do not touch the ground
  • Activities that require frequent bending and straightening the knee (squatting)
  • Poor conditioning and being out of shape taxes the muscle
  • Trigger points are usually found after a muscle strain

How long does it take a semimembranosus muscle strain to heal?

A Grade I (mild) strain can heal in 3-4 weeks. A Grade II (moderate) strain can take 4-8 weeks to heal depending on the severity of the muscle fiber tears.
A Grade III strain can take several months to a year to heal due to the damage of the muscle fibers and possible tendon tears.
Note: Grade II and Grade III strains should be monitored by a doctor. 

Semimembranosus trigger point recovery

 It can take 2-3 weeks of daily treatment to fully alleviate the pain and discomfort. The good news is that pain and discomfort are often reduced in a few days.

Kicking a ball hyper-extends the semimembranosus muscle and can cause a strain or muscle pull.


Tips To Prevent Semimembranosus Muscle Injury and Pain

  • A few minutes of proper warm up can save you from days, weeks, or months of pain, stiffness and inactivity due to injury.
  • To get fit you often have to push past your comfort zone but when muscle fatigue sets in take time and rest, don't push too far past your conditioning
  • Stay aware when executing pivots and hard turns
  • Allow the foot and leg to move with the body.
  • Don't sit for hours at a time. Get up stretch and walk around. If you work at a desk consider investing in a standing desk
  • Use a gel seat cushion when sitting on hard surfaces to relieve the pressure of the hard edge pressing into the back of the thigh.
  • Take time to check and release trigger points

Trigger Points

Trigger points are small knots found in the muscle that when pressed increase pain in the area or send referred pain to another area of the body. The good news is that you can learn how to treat your own trigger points.

TWD Recommends: Adjustable Hamstring Brace

The Odofit Support Brace is one of the best supports for hamstring pain and injury. The brace has 3 adjustable straps that allows you to adjust the compression to your needs. It is also long enough to cover most of the upper thigh which is important for support and compression.

Interesting facts about the semimembranosus muscle:

  • Trigger points cause pain and stiffness in the back of the thigh and is often diagnosed as hamstring tendinitis
  • The semimembranosus along with the other hamstring muscles stop the body from falling forward allowing your to stand upright.
  • Tightness in the semitendinosus as well as the other hamstring muscles can cause low back pain.

Semimembranosus muscle pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnosis:

  • L5 radiculopathy
  • Bruised ischial tuberosity
  • Deep vascular thrombosis
  • Cauda equina syndrome

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

Satellite trigger points associated with the semimembranosus muscle:

  • Long head of biceps femoris
  • Vastus lateralis
  • Vastus intermedius
  • Vastus medialis
  • Rectus femoris
  • Adductor magnus
  • Quadratus lumborum
  • Thoracic paraspinals
  • Rectus abdominis

When your leg is bent (flexed) at the thigh and the knee is straight (extended) the hamstring muscle are at the most risk of injury.


Recommendations for Semimembranosus Pain Relief

Cold and Warming Gels

If you have sore tight thigh muscles warming and cooling gels can help relieve the pain and get you through the day. I have two that I use both in my practice and personally that I highly recommend.

BioFreeze Cold Gel is the best choice for recent injury and sudden onset pain. The gel works much like ice as it cools the area and discourages inflammation. It is excellent for reducing pain to a bearable level.

Sombra Warming Gel is also excellent at reducing pain. The gel warms the area relieving stiffness and pain. I recommend Sombra for chronic pain, stiffness and post injury use. I like this gel because it does not warm so much that you experience the  burning discomfort that happen with other warming creams and gels.

Hot /Cold Pack For Hamstring Muscles

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

Braces and Supports

If you have recently injured the semitendinosus muscle you will need support to aid in your healing, pain relief and comfort.  I recommend the Thigh Brace by Vive. It allows you to adjust the compression to your needs and comfort. Excellent compression support for injured or sore hamstring muscles.

Supports for Maintenance and Prevention

Compression leggings and thigh sleeves are not only for post injury maintenance, but are also worn for preventive measures.

Thigh Sleeves

If you do not need a full brace but want support, I recommend the Sparthos Thigh Sleeve. I use this sleeve and it provides great support and compression. It is one of the few thigh sleeves that stays in place, it does not roll up or down.

Compression Tights For Men and Women

For hamstring muscles I recommend compression leggings over compression shorts. Compression leggings not only provide support and compression to the semimembranosus upper muscle/bone connection at the pelvis, but also the connection at the knee. High waist leggings also provide support to the abdominal and low back muscles.

I recommend the CW-X Endurance Pro Tights. These are made specifically to support the hamstrings and the knee.  Excellent support and compression will will keep your legs feeling fresh and strong. I own a pair and will attest to their quality. Highly recommended!

Self Treatment For Semitendinosus Muscle Pain

Trigger points in the semimembranosus muscle can make walking, sitting, and even sleeping difficult. You can learn to treat hamstring trigger points and other muscles through out the body. The best resource for self treatment is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. The authors explain trigger point pain, how to find and treat them. The book is easy to follow and is a must have for anyone interested in self treating muscle pain.

Tools For Self Treatment

Two tools recommended by The Trigger Point Therapy Book for semimembranosus treatment are Lacrosse balls and the Thera Cane. The book provides instructions on how to use the tools on the various muscles of the body.

The Lacrosse balls are used while seated to apply pressure and massage the leg. Properly sitting on massage balls can deactivate trigger points and help relax and lengthen the muscle.

The Thera Cane can be used while standing to find and apply pressure to the trigger points. The Thera Cane gives you a longer reach so you don't have to twist and bend to treat the muscle.

Another tool I often recommend is the Tiger Tail Roller. Though it is not the best tool to treat trigger points it is great to use for self massage on sore and tight muscles. I like the Tiger Tail Roller as it does not require you to have upper body strength or  contort your body into position to use it. It works well for all muscles of the upper and lower leg.


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