THE GLUTEAL MUSCLES

Humans are unique among animals with respect to their buttocks. No other mammal has such deposits of adipose tissue in the gluteal region. Although it is unknown why there are such deposits, it is known that the gluteal fold - the crease between the buttock and thigh - helps to localize the subcutaneous adipose tissue.

The gluteal group of muscles consists of 3 muscles: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus. "Gluteus" is Greek for rump. "Maximus" is the largest of the muscles and "Minimus" the smallest. The role of the Gluteus maximus is different from the medius and minimus muscles because of their attachment points.

The Gluteus Maximus is the largest and most posterior of the group. It originates at the posterior sacrum, ilium (via ligamentous sheath) and the superior gluteal line of the ilium. It attaches to the gluteal tuberosity of the femur and the iliotibial tract. The Gluteus maximus extends the femur at the hip and laterally rotates the extended hip. The gluteus maximus is used mostly for power as in going upstairs, rising from a sitting position, climbing or running.

Signs of possible weakness in the gluteus maximus, is a lordosis (excess lumbar curvature 'sway back') where the pelvis is rotated forward. Excess lordosis (sway back) becomes apparent when it is difficult to maintain a straight spine when jumping.

An illustration of the Gluteus Maximus can be seen to the right.



The Gluteus Medius

The Gluteus Medius is located on the side of the hip and is also superficial except for the posterior portion which is deep to the maximus muscle. It originates at the iliac crest; ilium between superior and middle gluteal lines and attaches at the greater trochanter of the femur. Gluteus medius is responsible for abduction and medial rotation of the femur at the hip, it also assists the maximus in extension. The gluteus medius muscle contracts and helps to stabilize the pelvis when standing on one foot, thus preventing the pelvis from tilting to the unsupported side. Alternate contraction of these muscles occur when walking.

 

The Gluteus Minimus muscle is deep to the gluteus medius and is inaccessible to palpation except for the fibers which attach to the greater trochanter. The gluteus minimus originates on the posterior ilium, between the middle and inferior gluteal lines and attaches to the surface of the greater trochanter of the femur. It works together with the anterior portion of gluteus medius during abduction and medial rotation of the femur at the hip.

When paralysis of the gluteus medius occurs, it results in the "gluteus medius limp": the pelvis tilts towards the uninvolved side in walking. Excess tension or weakness in the Gluteus medius and minimus can lead to problems with the pelvis or knees due to compensation of other muscles. Some signs of weakness can be uneven hip and shoulders or difficulty keeping pelvis level when standing on one leg.


The Gluteus Minimus is depicted above.

Here is one stretch for the hips, buttocks and lower back.

Instructions:

  1. Sit on the floor with both of your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Bend your right leg over your left leg, keeping your right foot flat on the floor outside the left knee.
  3. Place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee, and extend your right arm behind you with your palm flat on the floor for support.
  4. Slowly twist your upper body to the right while looking over your right shoulder.
  5. Lightly apply pressure with your left elbow on the outside of your right knee as your twist. Be sure to keep your upper body straight.
  6. Once you feel a comfortable stretch in your hips, buttocks and lower back, hold this position for at least 20-30 seconds. Try to relax while holding a stretch.
  7. Switch sides and repeat.

Note:
Do not force or bounce a stretch. A stretch should not hurt, it should feel like a stretch. Twisting of the upper body may not be advisable for some individuals. Please check with your health care advisor

If you would like more information on the gluteal muscles or more stretch exercises for this muscle group; please contact me by email at audrey@audreysmassage.com and I will provide you with additional information and alternative methods of stretching these muscles.