Rectus Femoris

What Is Rectus Femoris?

It is one of the four muscles that constitute the quadriceps group.

Rectus Femoris Location

Rectus Femoris Picture
Picture 1 – Rectus Femoris
Source –

It is located in the middle part of the front section of the thigh. The muscle is fusiform in shape, meaning it is tapered down at each end. The superficial fibres of the muscle are arranged in a bipenniform (an arrangement of muscular fibres that resembles a feather that is barbed on both sides) and the deep fibres run down directly to the deep aponeurosis.

Rectus Femoris Origin

This muscle has two origins –  anterior and posterior. The anterior origin is from the bottom of the spine while the posterior one is at the Acetabulum (the cup-shaped hollow space in the hipbone where the tip of the femur fits in to form a ball-and-socket joint).

Both anterior and posterior origins begin with a tendon and come together prior to running down to the point of origin of the muscle fibres.

Rectus Femoris Insertion

The insertion of the rectus femoris muscle occurs through a tendon that is known as the quadriceps tendon and attaches to the patella. The insertion also occurs into the tubercle of tibia through Ligamentum Patellae.

Rectus Femoris Muscle Function

This muscle mainly helps in performing two major functions. These are

  • Knee Extension – This muscle comes into force when you extend the leg at the knee.
  • Hip Flexion – It aids in flexing the thigh at the hip.

Without this muscle, common functions like walking, running, sitting, jumping and kicking would not have been possible.

Rectus Femoris Pain

Pain in this muscle can originate after a session of vigorous exercise or over-activity. Excessive Rectus Femoris muscle strain can lead to pain. In this case, pain mainly arises in the middle of the upper leg. A sharp ache is typically felt when you spread out your leg or raise your knee.

A pain in this muscle is typically cured with rest. Rest does not mean confinement to bed but non-use of the affected muscle in any strenuous activity. It is best to stop any exercise involving the leg as it may aggravate the condition. Pain is usually accompanied by inflammation of the affected muscle. These symptoms are tackled with the application of ice. Applying ice over the affected muscle for the first 48 hours after the origin of pain can reduce the symptoms to a great extent. Ice application leads to Vasoconstriction (reduction in the diameter of blood vessels) and minimizes pain and swelling by decreasing flow of blood and lymph to the region.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs such as Naproxen and Ibuprofen can help decrease the symptoms. These medicines contain Cox-2 inhibitors that control the action of Prostaglandin chemicals and Cox-2 enzymes which are the substances that react in response to an injury. Topical ointments like Bengay can also help lower the discomforts, particularly during activity. More severe pain can be tackled with steroids, as per the prescription of doctors.

In case of acute pain due to tear in Rectus Femoris injections may also be used. Botulinum toxin injection is often used for treating this muscle. Intramuscular injection is not used frequently.

Rectus Femoris Rupture

A Rectus Femoris tear is either total or partial. There is usually a rupture of the upper part of this thin muscle that descends to the knee from the front side of the hip. Forceful kicking during the practice of martial arts is one of the main causes of torn Rectus Femoris (RF).

A partial rupture of the muscle can give rise to swelling, even if the injury has healed out almost completely. Partial or bad functioning of this muscle can give rise to problems or inflammations of the joint or other groin or hip muscles. This can be avoided by stretching the quadriceps and the Rectus Femoris which can strengthen them over a period of time.

Rectus Femoris Avulsion Fracture

This is a very rare condition and is usually seen in footballers, martial art practitioners and other individuals who are involved in activities that put extreme stress on the legs. The condition is usually diagnosed with pelvic radiology and treated by analgesic medications. Bed rest is also effective in alleviating the disorder.

Rectus Femoris Transfer

It is a treatment option for kids affected by cerebral palsy who also display a stiff-knee problem during movement. In such kids, surgical operation is required to transfer the Rectus Femoris muscle to different areas in order to resolve problems like tripping and falling during movement.

Rectus Femoris Test

In some individuals, problems in the Rectus Femoris muscle are detected with the aid of diagnostic examinations that involve postural movements. An inability to perform these simple motions can be an indication of problems in the muscle.

Two of the most common diagnostic tests for this muscular problem are

Swayback Test

Here is a stepwise guide on how to perform this test.

  • Sit on a firm surface, keeping your legs straight.
  • Lie down on your back from the sitting posture, without moving the legs.
  • Keep yourself as much relaxed as possible.
  • Imagine for a moment that you are lying in warm sand at the beach.
  • Try to find out whether you have a greater space beneath the small of your back. A wider space can be indicative of an anterior rotation of the pelvis. This can suggest that you have problems in your rectus femoris muscle.

Heel-to-Butt Test

This test, which helps determine tightness of the RF muscle, should best be performed with the aid of a partner.

Lie on the side of a bed or table. Let the knee and the hip hang somewhat above the edge. Keep the other knee flexed to guard your lower back from injuries.

With the help of your partner, bring your heel gently towards the buttock that is in the same-side. Ideally, the heel should come in contact with the buttock. However, you should not stress to make the contact. Move your heel only as long as you are comfortable. The farther your heel is from the buttock, the tighter should your RF muscle be. If the distance is more than two feet and you are experiencing kneecap pain without any noticeable structural damage, your RF muscle may have suffered damage.

An injury in this muscle can make patients highly vulnerable to leg locks in sports activities such as

  • Wrestling
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jutsu
  • Mixed martial arts

It can also make it difficult for you to participate in activities such as kickboxing and football. Luckily, this muscle heals very quickly.

Rectus Femoris Stretches

Stretching this muscle can make it stronger and help in a faster resolution of any injuries to it. Here is a stepwise guide to one of the most effective Rectus Femoris stretching exercises:

  1. Stand in one place and lift up your right foot to get it close to your butt. Use your right hand to catch your ankle.
  2. Slowly pull your ankle to your butt. A proper pull should make you experience the stretching sensation in the forepart of your thigh. Slightly push out your pelvis to maximize the effect of your stretch. Repeat the process with the other side.
  3. Step forward as if you are trying to perform a lunge.
  4. Keep your front leg at a right angle (90 degrees) with your foot positioned flat over the floor. The back leg should also be at a 90 degree angle with the top of the foot on the floor.
  5. Keep your pelvis and torso in an upright posture. Bend forward to experience the stretch in your hind leg. Perform the stretch on both of your sides.
  6. Stand up with your back to an exercise table or bench. Bend your right leg to put the top of the foot over the bench. Draw your butt muscles in and slowly bend your left leg to experience the stretching sensation in your left Rectus Femoris. Repeat the process with your left leg.

Even after the muscle has been successfully cured, patients should perform stretching at least three-to four times on a daily basis for several days. Each stretch should be performed thrice, devoting 3-5 seconds to each stretch. Muscles on both sides should be stretched and treated.

If you are suffering from a strain or pull in the Rectus Femoris muscle, you should get it treated immediately. Early treatment will help you make an early recovery and get rid of discomforting sensations much faster.


One Response

  1. Pingback: Hip Flexor September 2, 2011
  2. Jenny August 16, 2012

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