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Gluteus Medius: Pain & Trigger Points

The gluteus medius is an often overlooked troublemaker in people suffering from low back pain.

When it is too tight or contains trigger points, it disturbs the force distribution on your hip as well as on your lower back and irritates your nervous system.

Pain can be the result.

Because so often it is involved in low back pain, the gluteus medius is called „The Lumbago Muscle“. Relieving it from tensions and trigger points improves low back pain drastically in a lot of cases.

The good news is: With a self-massage it will be easy for you to relieve this muscle and the pains it initiates. If applied frequently, improvement comes fast.

1. Pain Patterns and Symptoms of the Gluteus Medius Muscle

1.1 Pain patterns

I mentioned that the gluteus medius muscle is called „The Lumbago Muscle“.

You will see that immediately by taking a look at the pain zone pictures. They display areas the gluteus medius, if too tight or afflicted with trigger points, can send pain to.

The deeper the red, the more common it is to experience pain in the respective area if this muscle is too tight or contains trigger points.

Visualization of the pain patterns

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1.2 Symptoms & complaints

If the gluteus medius is too tight or harbors trigger points, you might feel pain when walking or sleeping on the side.

While walking, it works to stabilize your hip, and if it is too tense or contains trigger points, this might be painful.

When sleeping on the affected side, you compress the muscle and when sleeping on the non-affected side, the dorsal/back fibers of the muscle get stretched due to the slight inward rotation of your „upper“ hip.

Both scenarios display mechanic stress, which can be too much for an already burdened gluteus medius.

To get some relief, put a small pillow between your knees as this will prevent your thigh from rotating inwards too much.

2. Attachment Points of the Gluteus Medius Muscle

  • The gluteus medius muscle runs from your iliac crest to the trochantor major, which is a prominent landmark of your femur/thigh bone.
  • The muscle can be divided in an anterior, medial and dorsal part – front, mid, back –.
  • The Xs in the picture display areas where trigger points commonly develop. Each of these points has its own pain zone.

3. Functions of the Gluteus Medius Muscle

Its main function and the one that is most relevant for you, is the stabilization of your hip.

Whenever you are standing on one leg, and bear in mind that you do that with every step when walking, this muscle is active and prevents your hip from tilting.

Thus, if you are an active person, your gluteus medius has to work quite a lot.

Beside this stabilizing function, the gluteus medius also abducts your leg, which means it spreads it to the side.

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Abduction at the hip

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Flexion at the hip

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Medial rotation at the hip

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Extension at the hip

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Flexion and lateral rotation at the hip

4. Trigger Point Activation

Now I would like to talk about what can overload and eventually create problems in your gluteus medius muscle.

Briefly, it is muscular misuse/abuse. In case of the gluteus medius, that means too much sitting or unbalanced moving.

4.1 Too much sitting

Muscles are made to be moved.

It is detrimental to their health to be held in static positions for too long. When you sit, your gluteus medius is held in both, a shortened and a stretched position at the same time – anterior part is shortened, dorsal part is stretched –.

A consequence of this is increased muscle tension. This is why long sitting is no good.

Additionally, many people (especially men) have their wallets in their hip pocket. This can, depending on the pocket size and the position of the wallet, place mechanic stress on the muscle.

Eventually the result will be unnecessary muscle tension, trigger points and pain.

In a nutshell: If you sit a lot, due to your job or whatever, give yourself a break every now and then, and walk around. Move and make a self-massage a part of your life.

One more tip. Don’t sit with crossed legs if you have the feeling of being prone to develop problems in your gluteus medius. In this sitting position the muscle gets even more stretched – back part – and shortened – front part – than in normal sitting.

4.2 Excessive sports

Moving is healthy, yes, but if you are living a sedentary life, your muscles are used to „nothing“ and very „vulnerable“.

In case of the gluteus medius this means, that movements or activities that place lots of stress on the muscle, can overload it and create pain.

Here are some examples.

Bear in mind that the main function of the muscle is the stabilization of the hip.

  • Running
  • Tennis
  • Walking on sand
  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Extended walks
  • Taking on pants while standing

Does this mean that those activities are harmful per se? No, absolutely not!

But it means you should massage yourself after practicing them, and this way preventing your gluteus medius from tightening up too much.

In the long run, if you train and keep your muscles smooth via massage, they will get more resistant to all kinds of mechanic stress.

5. Palpation of the Gluteus Medius Muscle

About half of the muscle is covered by the gluteus maximus. Thus, you cannot palpate the whole muscle.

Still, there is one part that you can feel.

It is easiest while standing.

  • Place your thumb between the bony peak in the front of your hip (SIAS) and the bony peak at your upper outer leg (Trochanter major).
  • Now shift your weight on this leg a couple of times.
  • Every time you do so, you can feel the gluteus medius contracting under your thumb.

6. Self-Massage of the Gluteus Medius Muscle

The best way to massage it, is with a massage ball.

That means, you will place a ball on the muscle, lean against a wall and then search for tender spots.

As soon as you find one, concentrate your massage exclusively on that area and work it with 10 – 15 very slow and precise strokes.

That means you will roll the ball over these spots. It is important to unload the muscle by putting almost all your weight on your other leg.

Otherwise your gluteus medius will be contracted and you cannot massage it properly.

You also should try to relax the muscle. If your gluteus medius is very tender, this can be a challenge. Every time you want to press in the muscle it might get tight.

Relax, breathe, take your time and persist. After a couple of tries you will be able to do so, and the more often you repeat the massage, the easier it will get.

6.1 Self-massage while standing

  • You will find that the tenderest areas are right underneath your iliac crest and side of your hip, respectively – also see the location of the trigger points in the muscle picture –.
  • This is why you want to focus your massage on that area.
  • Tenderness of a muscle is a sign, that it is overworked and needs to be relieved.
  • You will do that with your self-massage.

6.2 Self-massage on the floor

Alternatively, you can massage the muscle with a ball while lying on the side and rolling over it.

Just give both options a try and see which one gives you better results.

Definitely you will be able to apply more pressure with the latter method. I personally find it inconvenient and prefer the massage with a ball against a wall.

Still, you might feel different.

One last tip! It is important to wear soft or no trousers. Otherwise you won’t be able to penetrate the gluteus medius muscle properly.

Thank you for reading my website!

References

  • Calais-German, Blandine. Anatomy of Movement. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993. Print
  • Davies, Clair, and Davies, Amber. The Trigger Point Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide For Pain Relief. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Print
  • Simons, David G., Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. The Lower Extremities. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1993. Print.
  • Schünke, Michael., Schulte, Erik, and Schumacher, Udo. Prometheus: Lernatlas der Anatomie. Stuttgart/New York: Georg Thieme Verlag, 2007. Print