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  • Dr. Leah Griswold

Why is the medial quadriceps one of the most important muscles for knee health?

There are literally books written on this subject.  Why is this muscle so important?  First one must understand a bit about the anatomy of the knee.  


The knee joint is essentially a hinge joint with a pulley.  The femur rests on top of the tibia and the fibula, with the patella between the two.  There are muscles above and below the knee joint that attach to the kneecap (patella) that move the patella in a groove. The function of the patella is to act within this “pulley mechanism” to help the quadriceps with the lifting of the tibia/fibula.  


There are also 4 other main ligaments.  The medial and lateral collateral ligaments, which stabilize the knee joint in side to side motions and the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments, which stabilizes the knee in front to back movements.  These are fundamental stabilizers of the knee joint.  

Secondarily, are the muscles surrounding the joint.  These include the quadricep, which is the large muscle group in the front the leg or thigh, having both medial and lateral parts.  The Iliotibial band (ITB) is lateral to the quadriceps and is mostly fascia (it does not stretch) until you get to the hip where there is a muscular attachment.  The hamstrings are in the back of the leg and essentially lift your leg up toward the buttocks.  The adductor muscles (on the inside of the leg) draw the legs to midline and the abductor muscles (on the outside of the leg) draw the leg outward.  


For most people, the muscles that surround the knee joint are not used in a balanced way.  In our sedentary society, most people primarily walk or sit.  When walking or running, the primary muscle used to move the leg forwarding a step is the lateral quadriceps.  The lateral quadriceps moves the foot forward for most of the motion.  The medial quadriceps only contracts at the last 15 degrees of extension.  Since we do not walk like a soldier, this muscle is not really contracted in walking or even running.  Now a pattern develops of a stronger lateral quadriceps verses the medial, causing a pull of the patella laterally.  This is called a patellar tracking disorder and can cause a number of different symptoms.  Activities that can help are simply strengthening the knee in the last 15 degrees of extension, bicycling (assuming you fully straighten the leg) and squatting.


Correcting this problem alone can bring about great results, as these are large muscle groups and are directly involved with the movement and alignment of the patella.  However, these are not the only important muscle groups to consider around the knee joint. 

Visit www.gvcwellnessctr.com for a more in depth look at knee joint health.  


Members at Squadstyle can book a free wellness service 'alignment check' to meet with Dr. Leah and get their knee alignment checked out.


Written by Dr. Leah Griswold

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