The Gluteals – a pain in the ……

Muscle of the month: The Gluteals

Gluteals, glutes, buttock, rear-end, hiney; these muscles have been given many names over the years, and I’m sure you can think of a few more!  But (pun intended), did you know you have three gluteal muscles on each side? The gluteals consist of the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. Each has its own specific actions and pain pattern, which helps your massage therapist differentiate which glute is the dysfunctional one.

Gluteus Maximus: The big Kahuna

Gluteus maximus - ottawa massage blog

Gluteus maximus (cut) lies over top of all hip muscles

Actions – Extends, laterally rotates, abducts and adducts the hip (moves leg away from or toward the body)

Common pain culprit – Sitting for an extended period of time (underwork), or conversely, excessive hill or stair climbing (overwork)

The gluteus maximus is the largest of the glute muscles, as you can tell by its name. It covers the whole span of one cheek and plays a big role in the appearance of the buttock. When we sit for long periods of time, the glute slowly atrophies, reducing its ability to contract properly for actions such as ascending stairs.

The fix: Get up often from seat, prevent atrophy by hypertrophy (exercising)!

Squats, lunges, and stair climbing are good examples of exercises that engage the gluteus maximus. If you are unsure whether you are performing them correctly, ask your massage therapist, who can help you make the proper adjustments.

Gluteus Medius: The deltoid of the hip

Actions – Abducts, flexes, medially and laterally rotates, and extends hip

Common pain culprit – Standing on one side more than the other, jutting the hip out

Lateral view of Glutues Medius - Ottawa massage blogThe gluteus medius is similar to the big shoulder muscle, the deltoid. This is because of its position and actions: it covers both the front and the back of the hip joint, allowing it to do every movement of the hip (except for adduction, bringing the leg toward the body). This is the same as what the deltoid does for the shoulder joint. Having the hip too far forward or too far back can put this muscle into a shortened position, compromising its ability to contract fully. This can also happen when you place all your weight onto one hip or have even a slight imbalance of weight.

The fix: Share the weight of the hips, and strengthen the gluteus medius with abduction exercises (bringing the leg away from the body)

Gluteus Minimus: Pseudo sciatica

Actions – Abducts, medially rotates, and flexes the hip

Common pain culprit – Getting in and out of car

Gluteus Minimus Trp Referral - Ottawa Massage BlogThis muscle is the deepest of the glute muscles, and can cause some of the most intense pain. The trigger point referral pattern for the gluteus minimus mimics that of sciatic pain. Many clients fear that they have developed sciatica when it is, luckily, only a flare-up of the glute min trigger point. How can you tell? The sensation you feel normally lets you differentiate between a trigger point and sciatica. Sciatica will be a very sharp, shooting, and almost burning pain. Gluteus minimus trigger point will be a dull, achy pain along the same sciatic pathway down the back of the leg. If the trigger point is activated, getting in and out of the car or other hip actions can aggravate it further.

The fix: Massage, heat and stretch.  The best stretch for glute minimus is the Figure 4 stretch, or pigeon pose (depending on your flexibility). Ask your RMT for guidance.

Stay tuned! Next week: How to stretch piriformis, one of the hip’s lateral rotators.

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About Body Poets Massage Therapy

Three-time nominee and 2016 winner of Top Massage Clinic in Ottawa! At Body Poets Massage Therapy, we are committed to excellence in client care. We provide therapeutic, sports, pre- and post-natal, wellness, cupping, hot stone, ART, Thai massage, and more in a convenient, peaceful, downtown Ottawa location with free client parking. We are FSCO-registered and can bill your auto insurance company directly for treatment after a motor vehicle accident. We also bill directly to Great West Life and Green Shield. Our flagship office at 504 Kent Street in Ottawa is close to the Queensway and easy to reach by car, foot, bike or bus. Our satellite clinic in Almonte, Ontario is cozy and charming. Our online booking system makes it simple for you to reserve your appointment at any time. And our network of like-minded health professionals means we can refer you to practitioners in other fields who meet your needs for quality care. Step into the circle of care, at Body Poets.,,

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