May Showers Bring June Flowers

And so my children were singing this past week! What a set of storms we had! I almost felt like I was back in the Midwest with all the lightening and thunder. And my garden sure did love the storms. I was happy to not have to head out with the house for a few days and enjoy the rain.

Instead of the weekend in the garden, where I have been for a few weeks now, I was out hiking with the big girls. We are still planing on being on Mt. St. Helens in two weeks! That meant this week was a big training hike. We headed out to North Bend, WA early Sunday morning to hit the trail and go up Mt. Si. Now I have not been on a mountain hike since January and the neighborhood walks where I live are fairly flat. I probably could have stood to go to the office and walk up and down the hill on 50th or some of the side streets a few times.

So we headed up 3188 feet. 22,700 steps later, my knees were killing me. It’s Tuesday, to be honest, my calves haven’t fully recovered yet. When I got home, I jumped in a nice hot bath salt bath. As I was enjoying the soak, I had a few leg cramps. Now, I am not unfamiliar with leg cramps, but these were in a new spot for me. I was cramping on the inside of my leg by my knee. Now there was a lot of steps up on big rocks, and then of course down them on the way back down. My knees received a lot of use on the hike.

What muscles are we talking about?

If you know me at all, you know I love visualizing what our muscles are doing! So here is the visual of the two muscles that are causing pain.

The Sartorius muscle originates at anterior superior iliac spine (a bony projection on the uppermost part of the pelvis) and travels to the upper shaft of the tibia, or shinbone. The Sartorius is the longest muscle in the human body. The Gracilis muscle is one of the muscles found in the groin. It starts at the external point of the ischiopubic ramus (on the pubic bone) and extends down to the upper medial (middle) shaft of the tibia, or shinbone. Both of these muscles join others in responsibility for flexing, adducting (moving across the center line of the body), and rotating the hip as well as flexing the knee.

So where do you feel the cramping after a long walk or lots of steps? A few different spots that can feel the cramping of these two muscles. Right in the knee area on the inside of the leg is one, sort of where your two knees hit together. This is where the tendons of the muscle are crossing the knee from the lower leg. Another would be just above that as the tendons of these muscles become muscle belly. And then again on the opposite end of the muscles. For the Sartorius the ache would likely be felt at the most exterior or outside part of the leg at the top of the crease between your leg and abdomen. You would feel pain from the Gracilis right in your pubic bone area, generally radiating up the pubic crease to the front.

Now you know where the muscles are, but how can you overcome the pain?

Here are the steps for stretching the Sartorius:

  • Start on the ground supporting yourself on both knees. Your spine should be straight with your head held high.
  • Raise one leg so you are resting on one knee and one foot. Both knees should be bent at right angles. You will be stretching the sartorius muscle on the leg that is kneeling on the ground.
  • Lift both hands in the air as high as you can. Lace the fingers of both hands together then turn your hands over. Both palms should be facing the sky. Keep your hands laced together throughout the sartorius muscle stretch.
  • Tilt your head back and look at your hands. This should force you to lift your shoulders higher. It is important to keep your shoulders high throughout the sartorius muscle stretch.
  • Slide the foot you have planted on the ground slightly forward. This will open up a wider space between your foot and the knee that is resting on the ground. A few inches should suffice.
  • Lunge forward toward the foot that just slid forward. This will force the other thigh to extend and stretch the sartorius muscle. You should feel a pulling sensation on the top and inside of your thigh. This is the sartorius muscle extending. Perform this motion slowly. If you make a sudden, jerky motion you could cause injury.
  • Hold the sartorius muscle stretch for a count of five then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat the sartorius muscle stretch several times then switch legs. To make the stretch more challenging, move your forward foot further out and reach your hands higher into the air.

Standing Stretch of Gracilis Muscle:

  • A standing stretch is ideal if you’re not very flexible.
  • Spread your feet apart, legs straight, until you feel a stretch in your inner thighs.
  • As you build flexibility, you can bend one knee, sinking into a side lunge to intensify the stretch on the other side.
  • Spend an equal amount of time stretching both sides of your body.
  • Avoid the temptation to sink all the way down into the side splits because it’s hard to control your body weight in that position, and unless you’re extremely flexible, you could end up hurting yourself.

Basic Technique

To get the most out of your stretches, follow basic best practices for stretching:

  • Stretch after your muscles are already warm, either after your workout, after a few minutes of brisk cardio or after soaking in a hot bath
  • Stay relaxed and breathe normally throughout the stretch
  • Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, without bouncing
  • Repeat each stretch three to five times per side
  • Try to stretch at least once or twice a week.

Warnings

The muscle stretches should only be performed if you feel a mild to moderate tightness in your thigh. If there is a burning or tearing sensation in your thigh you should not perform the muscle stretches. It could cause more damage to your injury. Instead, see a doctor immediately.

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