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Gluteus Medius - An Unknown Low Back Pain Culprit

Gluteus Medius is a wide, powerful, fan-shaped muscle that lies in the upper buttock region. Gluteus Medius can be referred to as the upper glute, the pocket of the hip, or the highest part of the butt with meat. When thinking of the glute muscles, the large Gluteus Maximus commonly gets most of the attention. In the realm of low back pain, however, Gluteus Medius is the glute muscle that has the capacity to wreak havoc in this area.

Gluteus Medius Muscle Pain

Gluteus Medius Muscle Anatomy

Anatomy: The Gluteus Medius muscle is an upper-side glute on the rear of the hip. Gluteus Medius is fairly wide and fan shaped, as opposed to many muscles that are bulb or hydraulic shaped. This allows Gluteus Medius to stabilize the pelvis, and also pull the pelvis out of place and cause pain [1].

Gluteus Medius Anatomy

Gluteus Medius Muscle

Function: Gluteus Medius has many functions. It is a pelvis stabilizer, hip abductor, trunk stabilizer, lifting muscle, and running muscle. Contraction of the Gluteus Medius muscle can be felt by performing hip abduction (image below), or by standing on one leg. For the standing on one leg example - standing on the right leg will contract the right Gluteus Medius to prevent the body from falling to the left.

In addition to stability, Gluteus Medius is active during activities like lifting, running, and sports. Gluteus Medius helps the low back and pelvis stay safe when carrying a heavy object, keeps the body upright when running, and is essential to making lateral cuts in sports. Gluteus Medius strengthening is absolutely critical to a well-rounded athlete's regimen.

Gluteus Medius Function

Hip Abduction - A Function Of Gluteus Medius

Gluteus Medius Muscle Pain

Due to the size and location of this muscle, Gluteus Medius has the potential to cause an enormous amount of pain on the backside of the body. The image below illustrates the pain pattern caused by Gluteus Medius trigger points in bright red [2]. Although pain caused by Gluteus Medius can be felt all over the low back and buttock, it generally is felt right around the belt line on one or both sides of the body [1].

Gluteus Medius Pain Chart

Gluteus Medius Referred Pain Pattern [2]

Gluteus Medius pain can be particularly debilitating. Its pain triggers usually involve a high impact move like lifting a very heavy object, sprinting without warmup, or something of that nature. However, once Gluteus Medius pain is present it can be made worse by light activities like standing, walking, and sitting down for long periods of time.

Gluteus Medius Muscle Release

At this point you may be thinking: this is horrible, what can I do about it? Fortunately, the solution might be inexpensive, non-invasive, and can potentially be done at home. This solution is targeted deep tissue massage to the Gluteus Medius muscle. Effective deep tissue release of the Gluteus Medius muscle will break up any knots, trigger points, and tightness that are contributing to the Gluteus Medius pain.

Gluteus Medius release can be done by the hands of a professional physical or massage therapist. It also can be done at home with a lacrosse ball, or a targeted deep tissue massage tool like QL Claw. I personally love QL Claw for Gluteus Medius release because it stays solid on the ground, it digs deep into the Gluteus Medius muscle, and its material is perfect for massage. QL Claw is also not limited to Gluteus Medius release, it was designed to release all 5 muscles that can contribute to low back pain and more!



[1] Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.

[2] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

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