There are five muscles that attach to the patella via a tendon, and six that cross over the knee joint. This makes the knee very delicate and susceptible to injury when any of these muscles are aggravated. Learning the anatomy of the muscles and foam roller exercises that treat and prevent chronic knee pain will help keep your knee stable and healthy.
Knee Anatomy and Physiology
The quadriceps muscles consist of the rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis and vastus medialis. They extend the knee and insert into the patella via the patellar tendon. The gastrocnemius -- also known as the calf -- crosses the posterior portion of the knee and flexes it. The sartorius, gracilus, semimembranosus and semitendinosus cross the medial portion of the joint, flexing and internally rotating the knee. The gluteus maximus inserts into the iliotibial band, which crosses over the lateral portion of the knee joint like the biceps femoris, which flexes and externally rotates the knee. The semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris make up the hamstrings.
Quadriceps, Hamstrings and Inner Thigh Foam Roller Exercise
Myofascial knots are common in upper thigh muscles because they are involved in almost all activities, including walking and running. To treat the quadriceps muscles, start in a plank position on your elbows. Place your lower thighs on the foam roller. Army crawl backward so the foam roller moves up your thighs, then move in the opposite direction. Do not roll over your knees. To treat the muscles that flex the knees, turn your hips to the right so your left inner thigh and right outer thigh are on the roller. Repeat the army crawl in both directions.
Iliotibial Band Foam Roller Exercise
Because the iliotibial band is tougher than muscle, its effects are more pronounced when shortened or adhered than the knee muscles. Additionally, since it's the insertion point of the gluteus maximus, it can also affect the hips and lower back. Stretching this tendon is a must when exercising your knee. Start in a side plank position. Place your right elbow on the floor, with your legs together on the foam roller just above the knee. With the help of your left hand, army crawl away from, then toward the foam roller.
Gastrocnemius Foam Roller Exercise
For some reason, many people forget about the gastrocnemius when exercising the knee. It's important to stretch this muscle, as it is the only one that crosses the posterior portion of the knee. Furthermore, it also acts in plantar flexion and can attribute to chronic foot problems like plantar fasciitis. Start face up with your hands behind you, fingers forward. Place your calf muscles on the foam roller. Walk your hands toward the roller and then away. In the beginning, perform all your foam roller exercises for three minutes and increase your time in three-minute intervals.
- Trail Guide to the Body: A hands-on guide to locating muscle, bones and more, 4th Edition; Andrew Biel
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