There are about 650 skeletal muscles in your body, and all of them are working in perfect balance to help you, well, exist. Running, walking, standing upright, lying down, sitting cross-legged - your skeletal muscles are moving and stabilizing your body all the time.
But what are skeletal muscles?
Well, there are three types of muscles in your body. All those muscles attached to bone or cartilage, carrying out the voluntary movements of your body, are called skeletal or striated muscles. The sartorius muscle is a skeletal one, and injury to it can often lead to hip or knee pain.
Smooth muscles are usually associated with all the hollow organs in your body, for example, the wall of your stomach. Cardiac muscles, as you can tell from the name, make up your heart.
Before we dive into the details about the sartorius muscle, let’s first try to understand what muscle pain is.
What Is Muscle Pain?
Clinically referred to as myalgia, muscle pain results from any injury, infection, or disease affecting your muscles. In the case of physical injuries, for example, muscle tear, the pain is usually localized and movement is restricted. On the other hand, infection and disease come with multiple other symptoms, such as fever, nausea, and fatigue.
Muscle pain can be either deep or superficial, depending on the site and nature of the injury. It can come and go with intervals of relief in the middle, and it can radiate to surrounding areas.
Unless the injury is severe and has damaged the skin, muscle pain is often not of the stabbing, piercing sort. Unintentional tears and overstretch often lead to deep, dull, and throbbing pain.
Diagnosing Muscle Pain
Your physician can diagnose your muscle pain by palpating the area. Deep pressure on the painful area will result in tenderness and is indicative of injury.
However, we are only focusing on deep, physical injury here. For infection and other diseases, investigative tests such as biopsy and MRI are used.
Treating Muscle Pain
Recovering from a muscular injury is a test of patience. Treatment, beyond painkillers and salves, is bed rest and care. Physiotherapy is highly effective in quick muscle recovery, especially for deeper injuries.
Also read: How Much Muscle Can You Gain in 30 Days? A Beginner Guide For Muscle Building
Basic Anatomy of the Sartorius Muscle
Muscle pain is more often than not linked to joint pain. Pain in your knee or hip joints can very well be due to an inconspicuously injured sartorius muscle.
However, you cannot understand the exercise and the best massage for muscle recovery before you know about the damage itself. So, we have a little anatomy lesson for you before we head towards treatment.
The sartorius is a muscle of your thigh. More specifically, it is present in the anterior compartment or region of your leg. Often described as a ribbon-like muscle, it spans somewhat obliquely across the front of your thigh, from your hip to your knee.
Every muscle has an origin, the place it begins, and insertion, the place it ends. This will help you predict the course and direction of the muscle fibers, as well as understand its actions.
The sartorius muscle originates from your anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) and a small part of the notch just below it. For reference, this is the most prominent part of your hip bone that juts forward below the skin.
Your calf is supported by two bones side by side, tibia on the inner aspect, and fibula on the outer one. The muscle insertion lies just below your knee joint, on the upper and inner aspect of the tibia.
The femoral nerve (L2, L3) supplies the sartorius muscle.
Direction of Pull
Here is a simple rule for skeletal muscles. The origin never moves.
The direction of the fibers of the muscle is also obliquely downwards. When the sartorius muscle contracts, the origin at the hip pulls the insertion at the knee towards itself.
Let’s see how that translates to its functions.
The word sartorius is derived from the Latin route “sartor,” which means “tailor.” Therefore, this muscle is often called the tailor’s muscle, as its actions allow you to sit cross-legged like a tailor. Some medical literature also calls it the “honeymoon” muscle.
The sartorius is responsible for four types of movements and the hip and knee joints combined.
At the Hip Joint
The sartorius allows the following movements at the hip:
- Flexion, i.e., moving your thigh upwards towards your abdomen
- Abduction, i.e., moving your thigh outwards and away from the other one
- Lateral rotation, i.e., rotating your thigh in the outward direction.
At the Knee Joint
Here, the sartorius has only one action. It helps in flexing your leg at the knee, such as while bending your knee.
Despite its many actions, the sartorius is a weak muscle at best. Thin and without much traction of its own, it acts as a synergist with other stronger, bigger muscles of your thigh and supports their action.
The relations of any part of your body mean their surrounding structures. Although you do not need to know every tiny vessel related to the sartorius here, you must be aware of some basics. This will help you make sure nothing else is hurt.
The most important relation of the sartorius is the femoral triangle. This triangle contains your femoral artery, femoral vein, and femoral nerve. Your sartorius muscle forms the lateral boundary of this triangle, and any extreme injury to it could harm the major vessels and nerve supply of your leg.
However, this would be a bit of an extreme situation. A much more vulnerable relation you need to know about is the anserine bursa located near its insertion, between the muscle and bone. We will look at how this bursa might get inflamed sometimes in the next section.
How Can the Sartorius Muscle Get Injured?
When it comes to injuries, the sartorius often gets ignored. This is mainly because of its small size and weak function. However, even this small muscle can lead to considerable pain when hurt.
Here are three of the most common reasons that the sartorius may be causing your knee and hip pain.
Muscle tightening refers to the shortened length of the muscle. This most commonly occurs in people with sedentary lifestyles, who sit around all day with their hip joints flexed. Over time, the flexor muscles of their thighs adapt by reducing in length.
Sitting in your office chair all day and developing knee and hip pain? You might want to slowly start exercising those limbs a little. We will also talk about the best massage for muscle recovery in a bit.
However, keep in mind that sometimes muscle tightening can also occur in athletes who have to keep their hips flexed most of the time. Although less common, it is still a possibility.
You might also strain your sartorius muscle. Intense activity at the joint can cause an injury due to friction. Similarly, if you are immediately jumping into action to correct your tight flexors, you might strain your muscles.
However, strain, when ignored, can sometimes develop into tendonitis. A good test to differentiate them is to determine the locality and nature of pain.
Strains are usually acute and the pain is localized around the knee joint, especially upon flexion. Moreover, they promise quick muscle recovery once treated. Tendonitis, on the other hand, develops slowly over time, with pain mainly felt around the knee joint.
The sartorius, gracilis, and semitendinosus muscles span over your thigh looking like guy ropes and find common insertion on your tibia. Their tendons at the insertion have a “goosefoot” appearance, thus this formation is known as pes anserinus. Beneath these tendons and on the bone lies the complicated anserine bursa.
A bursa is a little sac filled with fluid. Bursae are present positions in your body that are liable to injury due to friction. They prevent excessive wear and tear at joints.
Overworking the sartorius muscle, along with the other two, can lead to inflammation in the anserine bursa. This is known as bursitis and can develop into a very painful, inflammatory condition. Strains and tendonitis can be common predisposing factors, and together these conditions lead to knee and hip pain.
Quick Muscle Recovery
Muscle recovery can refer to both the process of healing from an acute injury or ensuring muscle health post-workout. In the former case, you slowly ease into movement after the initial medication and treatment. For post-workout recovery, you soothe your overworked muscles to prevent any clots, tears, or strains.
In either case, stretching and massage are the best techniques for quick muscle recovery.
Whether you are slowly relearning difficult muscle movement following an injury or warming up before or after your workout, stretches are your best friends. What better way to stretch than to start yoga?
Turning to yoga as the medium for stretching not only helps you take it slow but also keeps you centered. The chances of unintentionally hurting yourself are decreased.
In case you are suffering from muscle tightening, poses like the lotus and the butterfly can go a long way in loosening your sartorius muscle.
On the other hand, if you simply want to safely increase the range of muscle use, any poses that engage the sartorius would be of help. These include the hero pose, the warrior pose, the camel pose, and the firefly pose.
You can either incorporate these stretches as your morning and nighttime routine or as warm-ups during your workout.
The best massage for muscle recovery is deep tissue massage. This helps relieve the knots and kinks in your muscles after a tough workout session. The five techniques of deep tissue massage ensure that your muscles are soothed in the best way possible.
Keeping your body in good health is always a worthy investment. Most healthy as well as injured athletes hire a masseuse to give them regular massages.
Let’s look at some of the types of massages that might benefit you.
A sports massage is your go-to for quick muscle recovery. The masseuse targets the overworked and sore muscles. Generally, the strokes are in the upward direction towards the heart to ensure venous return and aid in circulation.
The usual recommendation is a professional sports massage two to three times a month. However, make sure you self-massage regularly to get out any knots. Check out the Exogun DreamPro to help you self-massage three to four times a week.
A myofascial massage specifically targets your upper and middle back, hips, wrists, and ankles. This massage typically builds flexibility, but it can also help with any hip pain you might be having. Moreover, better flexibility can prevent muscle tearing in the long run.
There is no strict guideline on the frequency of this massage, but a couple of times a month will keep you in good shape.
Trigger Point Massage
This massage is specifically for pain relief after an injury. However, it is a part of long-term physiotherapy after the healing process is complete. The masseuse uses deep pressure on your pain points to unknot your muscles. People typically start feeling relief after five to six sessions.
What Can You Do to Strengthen Your Sartorius Muscle?
To prevent injury to your sartorius, you can work on strength-building exercises. Most exercises that strengthen your thighs and loosen your hip and knee joints would be good for this purpose.
Exercises such as squats and lunges are the best for this purpose, along with anything that aids hip flexion. You can easily incorporate these into any workout routine.
However, our advice would be to take it a little slow. In an effort to build stronger muscles, we do not want you to hurt yourself. Rapid and intense movements could lead to tearing or bursitis and would defeat the purpose.
The Bottom Line
Although this article can help you understand your pain, it is not the equivalent of a doctor’s consultation. If your pain does not lessen upon resting and massage, please visit a physician to rule out any serious injury or condition.
Moreover, other muscles may have also suffered damage along with your sartorius muscle. Pain is your body’s best warning system and should not be ignored. We wish you health and good luck.