Skip to content

Gluteus Medius Pain - What It Feels Like And How To Fix It

Gluteus Medius pain is a nasty muscle pain that can wreak havoc on the lower back, upper glutes, and outer hip. "The gluteus medius is at the top of the list of the many muscles that cause low back pain" [1] - via Myofascial Pain & Dysfunction.

Gluteus Medius pain is often overlooked as the source of lower back and glute pain. Read on to determine if Gluteus Medius is causing your pain and how to fix it.

Gluteus Medius Pain Video


Gluteus Medius Pain Anatomy & Function

The Gluteus Medius is an upper buttock muscle. It is located in the pocket of the hip, or the highest part of the butt that has meat. Gluteus Medius lies underneath the better-known Gluteus Maximus, and lies on top of the lesser-known Gluteus Minimus [2].

Gluteus Medius Muscle Pain

Gluteus Medius Muscle

Gluteus Medius functions in hip abduction; or swinging the leg to the side of the body. Gluteus Medius keeps us upright when standing on one leg, so it is important in many physical activities - especially during sports. Gluteus Medius is active in every activity you do on your feet, including:

  • Playing sports with lateral movements
  • Running
  • Standing on one leg.

To feel Gluteus Medius work, stand on one leg without using your hands to balance. When standing on your right leg, your right Gluteus Medius contracts to prevent you from tipping to the left. You should feel a muscle engaging in the upper-side buttock area - see the anatomy image above for reference.

Since Gluteus Medius is crucial in single-leg stability, it tends to be very well developed in runners and athletes who play sports with lateral movement (tennis, soccer, basketball, hockey, etc.). Gluteus Medius also works hard when lifting objects, and can become strained if the load on the muscle exceeds its capacity. It is for this reason that Gluteus Medius pain can arise in untrained persons trying to "do too much" while playing a sport or lifting an object.

Gluteus Medius Pain Hip Abduction

Hip Abduction - A Function of the Gluteus Medius Muscle


Gluteus Medius Pain Patterns & Symptoms

Gluteus Medius Pain Patterns:

The Gluteus Medius muscle has the capacity to refer a gnarly amount of pain to the low back, glutes, and outer hip. The image below is from Travell & Simons work, which contains the most exhaustive muscle pain research ever conducted. It depicts in bright red where pain caused by Gluteus Medius can be felt on the body. 

Gluteus Medius Pain Chart Travell Simons

Gluteus Medius Pain Patterns [2]

Gluteus Medius Pain Symptoms:

Gluteus Medius pain generally feels like nagging low back pain and pain along the upper buttocks. This pain can be triggered by a brief event such as lifting a couch, but also can occur gradually from performing physical activity over a long time. It is worth noting that Gluteus Medius is more susceptible to pain when it is cold and unprepared to work, as in jumping into a sport without warming up after sitting all day. Once Gluteus Medius is tight and in pain, being on your feet for too long can be very uncomfortable.

Additional Gluteus Medius pain symptoms:

  • Flattened low back (loss of natural lumbar curve) - caused by a hyperactive, tight Gluteus Medius
  • Pain from standing or walking for hours at a time
  • Pain while lifting or carrying objects that should be easy
  • Discomfort walking, climbing stairs, and running [2]
  • Lower back pain when running
  • Severe lower back pain while playing sports


Gluteus Medius Pain Relief

If Gluteus Medius pain is present, there are 3 steps to relief. Perform them in order, and do not leave any of them out.

Step 1: Gluteus Medius Release / Massage

The root cause of Gluteus Medius pain is the knots, tightness, and trigger points in the muscle. This causes constant tension in the muscle and pulls the pelvis posteriorly out of place. With tightness and trigger points present, stretching is extremely difficult. Strengthening does not fix the constant muscle tension or pain [1].

To release the Gluteus Medius muscle, a lacrosse ball or a targeted tool like QL Claw can be used. I will only ever use QL Claw for Gluteus Medius release because it takes the guesswork out of the equation.

Gluteus Medius Pain Relief

Gluteus Medius Pain Massage

Gluteus Medius Pain Release

Gluteus Medius Pain Release Using QL Claw

QL Claw has written and video tutorials on the subject of Gluteus Medius release, as well as all other muscles (Psoas, QL, Iliacus, and Piriformis) that could be bringing you pain. Learn more at the links below!

QL Claw

Gluteus Medius Release

Step 2: Stretch

After opening the Gluteus Medius tissue with massage, you will be able to stretch the muscle back to its normal (or even an extended) length. One stretch that works well is the Pigeon Stretch. Here is another more moderate stretch you can do while sitting in a chair: Place one ankle on the opposite thigh. Lean forward or pull the leg to the chest to feel a deep stretch.

Gluteus Medius Stretch

Step 3: Strengthen

Gluteus Medius pain usually happens in the first place because it is weak. A strong, flexible Gluteus Medius is armor against low back pain; that is what we want to build from here out.

Here are a few effective Gluteus Medius strengthening movements:

  • Hip Abductions (standing or laying)
  • Single Leg Deadlift
  • Fire Hydrants
  • Clamshells
  • Standing on one leg with a neutral pelvis
  • Running

Gluteus Medius Exercises

Upper Glute Workouts


Additional Gluteus Medius Pain Resources

Gluteus Medius is not the only muscle that can cause pain and problems in the lower back. If the steps above do not solve your problem, I recommend looking into other muscles like the Quadratus Lumborum (QL) and Iliacus. Similar to Gluteus Medius, both muscles can refer pain directly to the lower back when tight. Save this page and check out these resources next to own your pain for good!


Gluteus Medius Pain FAQ:

What Causes Gluteus Medius Pain?

Trigger points, knots, and constant tension in the Gluteus Medius muscle causes pain by pulling on joints, impinging nerves, and creating discomfort.

Gluteus Medius Pain When Walking?

Gluteus Medius is crucial in walking, since it holds the torso upright while standing on one leg. If you have developed Gluteus Medius trigger points, walking can be extremely uncomfortable and feel like a nagging, throbbing lower back and upper buttock pain.

How To Treat Gluteus Medius Pain:

The first step is to release the Gluteus Medius muscle of its knots, trigger points, and constant tension. When done thoroughly, you should experience relief.

*If you do not find relief after several sessions of massage - Gluteus Medius pain is likely not your problem, and I would look at another potential pain source.

How Do You Release A Tight Gluteus Medius?

Deep tissue massage can be done by the hands of a professional physical or massage therapist, but you can also use a purposefully made tool like QL Claw at home.




[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.

comment 4 comments

Daniel calendar_today

I do all these exercises and there’s still discomfort whenever I sit down in my buttocks. It hasn’t gone away l.

Nicole calendar_today

Thanks for this thorough article and the diagrams of where the pain is. This is exactly what I had, and once I was able to identify it and release the muscle, I felt so much better.

Scott calendar_today

I have just started running in gym on treadmill and just hit 5k for first time as never ran before. But the last few days my glutes medius both sides are so painful can hardly sit and swollen how long before this will go.

Jean E. Concialdi calendar_today

This glute pain has come on very suddenly.. 1st noticed it while sitting and tilting my head up and slightly back. I’m 65 and recently my calves and hips are very painful. I’ve had countless tests done, Dopplers, ultrasound etc. but this is new, 3rd day now. Having most symptoms listed..

Leave a comment

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive emails every few days with back pain relief tips, testimonials, and resources