An interesting muscle group that doesn’t really get the attention in a lot of massages – and they should. Found on the inside of your upper leg, they are involved mainly in 2 actions, adduction – pulling your leg toward the midline, and also extension – pulling your leg backwards. (not all of them do this, but bear with me as this isn’t meant to be a physiological tour de force, just an introduction).
There are 5 adductors, Pectinius, Adductor Brevis, Adductor Longus, Adductor Magnus and Gracilis. They all start on the lower area of the pelvis and attach in various places along the inside of your leg. The 2 major exceptions to this are Magnus, which also has an attachment to the ischial tuberosity (the bony bit at the bottom of your bum), and Gracilis, whose attachment is below the knee.
Although I have just mentioned that these muscles are only really involved in 2 movements, they are also very important in terms of fascial slings and the way in which you stand and move generally. Because of their location, and their propensity to being short and tight they have a massive effect on the rest of the leg, to the knee, the hip and beyond, the reasons for this are several fold.
The effect on the knee. If the Adductors are short and tight, they can have an effect on one of two places, the top of the muscle, which is the pelvis, or the lower end – which is the knee. As a weaker joint, it is most likely the knee which is going to be affected. Short, tight muscles and fascia winding down the inside of the leg can effectively inhibit the knee from tracking properly, and not just from being tight (see reason 2). However, fascial release through the adductor area, though occasionally painful can provide a much freer feeling through the leg.
Think about it. If one of the main muscle groups of your leg is short and working suboptimally, how can you expect to be able to walk, run, cycle, hop, skip and jump in a fashion that doesn’t cause you pain?
Reciprocal inhibition. Don’t worry about the name – it’s the concept you need to think about, which is basically this:- if there are two muscles on either side of a joint, when one muscle is tight the other, physiologically HAS to relax. When the other muscle tightens, the first one, physiologically HAS to relax. Your brain makes it so.
Imagine if you went around with the muscles on one side of a joint permanently “switched on”- always tense, always working. The muscle on the other side of the joint, would be constantly “off”. Or at least, they certainly wouldn’t work as hard because they are being inhibited, stopped from working by the brain.
So – those of us with short, tight adductors, all day, everyday, they are firing away, inhibiting the muscles on the outside of the leg – specifically Gluteus Maximus, Minimus and Medius – a massive group of muscles which stabilise the hip and the knee.
Not only do we have one group of muscles dominating control of the hip and knee in one direction (inward), but because they are, the antagonists are being switched off, so that not only are they inefficient, but they are being weakened as well.
There are, of course many more things about the adductors, but I’m running out of space. At least you are aware of them now.
Mobilise them, foam roller them and get them massaged!