The gluteus medius is the middle of the 3 gluteal muscles. Located between the gluteus maximus and gluteus minimus, it shares job responsibilities with the other muscles.
The origin of the gluteus medius is on the upper outer surface of the ilium. Gluteus medius inserts on the lateral surface of the greater trochanter (top notch) of the femur. This means that this muscle originates and inserts on the side of your pelvis.
Because of the location of the insertion of the gluteus medius, the muscle can do opposing actions. In this way, it is similar to the deltoid muscle group in the shoulder. The gluteus minimus also works in this same way.
For example, when the femur moves anterior to the body (in front of me), the gluteus medius flexes and internally rotates the femur at the hip joint. However, when the femur is posterior to the body (behind me), the muscles extends and externally rotates the femur at the hip joint.
All of the gluteal muscles work together to abduct and medially rotate the hip joint. This happens every time you take a step. In Functional Anatomy of Yoga, David Keil says:
“Every time we take a step forward, we have to stabilize the pelvis and torso relative to the leg. As we walk, our center of gravity shifts from both legs to one leg. As a result, the bulk of our weight pulls us off the standing leg towards the other side of the body. This pull on our body happens primarily at the hip joint. The glutes on our standing leg contract and stabilize the hip. Through their stabilization, they prevent adduction at the hip. If they didn’t contract, we would fall over or we would walk more like primates, throwing our weight from side to side when upright. You could say that preventing adduction is equal to creating abduction even when there is no actual movement occurring.”
As with all muscles, I’m sure you could sprain, strain, or tear the gluteus medius. However, most of the issues from this muscle are simply from tightness or dysfunctional movement patterns.
As we learned when studying the psoas and quadriceps (rectus femoris), any time you have a tight muscle that connects to the pelvis, you can have an imbalance or instability in the pelvis. This can result in pain in hips, lower back, and knees.
Restoring or Maintaining Health
So much of joint health is balancing the forces. If you have strong or tight glutes, this will create a pull in one direction. To make sure that you don’t get injured, you will need to balance that pull with strong adductors.
In addition to needing opposing muscle strength, we also need flexibility. Do stretches such as Fire log or Figure 4 to stretch the glutes.
David Keil has a wonderful yoga anatomy book that I enjoy. That book is called Functional Anatomy of Yoga. Here is a link to buy it on Amazon. When you buy this book through this link, I earn a small commission.
Another book that I find helpful is The Concise Book of Muscles by Chris Jarmey. I used lots of information from his book while writing this post. The link I have provided is to an updated version of the book I have. It appears to be a very thorough update, although I have not personally looked through the whole book.
Have you ever injured your gluteus medius? What was that like? Let us know in the comments below.
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