Jul 2015 25

The adductor muscles

By: Dave Wheeler

I've mentioned the adductors in passing before when I've blogged about groin strain

The adductors run from the inside of the leg up into the groin.

There are 4 of them:

  • pectineus
  • adductor brevis
  • adductor longus
  • adductor magnus
  • gracilis (shown in the diagram as the long dark-shaded muscle running downwards on the right hand side of the pic)



The function of the adductors

The job of the adductors is to stop your leg flailing about when you walk or run. The adductors add the leg in towards the centre line of the body.

Whilst you'd expect dancers to use this muscle a lot (think about the Tango, where the dancer is constantly dragging her foot in towards the centre-line), you might be surprised how frequently we all use the adductors.

Only a very few people walk in an absolutely perfect straight line during the whole of our stride. For most of us, differences or imbalances in the feet are compensated for in the muscles of the leg and hip.

Over-pronation (where the arch of the foot is lessened) is really common and can lead to the muscles on the inside of the leg (including the adductors) to be used to compensate for non-standard foot use.

The most common posture type is the sway back (around 60% of us in the UK have this posture type) - if you have the sway-back posture, then every step you take over-uses your adductors.


The anatomy of the adductors

As my (admittedly pretty ropy) drawing of the adductors above shows, all of the adductors start at the groin. We say that their origin is the bottom of the pubic bone, specifically an area known as the pubis

Four of the adductors start at the pubis and attach (or insert) onto the upper leg bone, the femur. These bring the leg back into the midline when the knee is bent.

The last of the adductors, gracilis, originates at the pubis and inserts at a point on the larger of the lower leg bones, the tibia. This is the adductor that brings your leg back into the midline when your leg is straight.

The point at which gracilis attaches to the tibia is the same point that 2 other leg muscles attach, called pes anserinus. This point at the inside front of the leg just below the knee, is therefore prone to tightness through overuse of any of the muscles that attach there.


Adductors and injury

Damage to the adductors is surprisingly common, and not just in athletes. A client came to the clinic yesterday complaining of pain at the knee which turned out to be a problem with the tendon that attaches gracilis to the tibia. He hadn't done any sport for 20 years, and the problem was down to a combination of his posture, his foot placement, the amount of walking he did and carrying a bit of extra weight around the middle. All of these meant that gracilis was overworking.

If any of the adductors get overworked, they become hypertonic - literally "hyper toned"... a bit like the gym-rat who overworks his biceps then can't straighten his arm. The adductors then become, quite literally muscle-bound.

This isn't a problem until you do something beyond the range of movement that's become the norm - like jumping over a puddle. Then the hypertonic muscle tissue in the adductors is in danger of ripping. Any tear to the adductors is known as a groin strain - partly because they all attach into the groin, and partly because that's the most likely point where you'll feel pain.


Looking after your adductors

The best way to look after your adductors is through stretching. Do make sure though, that you follow the advice about only stretching on warm muscle.

If you start to get any niggles at the knee or towards the groin, best to get yourself checked out before things go really wrong.

As ever, if you think I can help, give me a call.