If someone asked me to list the 5 most important skeletal muscles for joint injury prevention and for everyday function, the gluteus medius, also referred to as the ‘glute med’ would definitely be on that list. We usually hear the terms ‘glutes’ and ‘glute max’ but how often do we hear the term ‘glute med?’ Not very often. The glute med is generally neglected in typical exercise programs, therefore we need to understand its importance. Let’s start with its function.
The glute med is one part of the three gluteal muscles. It is the muscle deep beneath the glute max with its origin being the back of our ilium (hip bone) and its attachment being to the side of our hips specifically on the greater trochanter of the femur (thigh bone). Its main action is to move our leg away from midline also known as hip abduction and bringing the femur outwards also known as hip external rotation. The glute med also plays an important role in hip stability….but before we discuss this, we need to know what the kinetic chain is.
The Kinetic Chain
We consider our bodies as a ‘kinetic chain’, which means that all our joints are connected through muscles and nerves that help us produce movement. To get an understanding of how impactful the kinetic chain is, podiatrists specialise specifically on treatment on disorders of the foot, ankle and lower extremities. This is important because the feet and ankle joints are the lowest part of the ‘kinetic chain’. If this part of the chain is affected then everything up the chain will get affected too. For example, walking for too long with insufficient sole support can result in poor tracking of the knee resulting in knee pain. This can result in compensation of the hip muscles to work harder to walk. With the hip muscles overworking, they become tight and weak, resulting in the lower back muscles to take the workload which then results in lower back pain and the list goes on.
The Hip Stabiliser
When we walk or run, our glute med acts as a hip stabiliser to prevent one side of our pelvis from dropping. Try this yourself, look in the mirror and stand on one leg. If you’ve noticed that your opposite hip drops, then you may have some weakness in your glute med, this is known as the Trendelenburg sign. Weakness in the glute med is important as it can directly affect above and below the kinetic chain resulting in many musculoskeletal disorders. If you’ve ever walked for a long period of time and have noticed that your knees and lower back hurt, it could possibly be because the glute med has been working for so long trying to stabilise the pelvis that it becomes tired and as a result becomes tight as a protection mechanism. This forces the lower back muscles to take over resulting in excessive lower back stress and ultimately pain. We could also experience knee pain as poor hip stability could result in poor patellar tracking which overtime becomes detrimental to our knee joint health.
How We Can Help You With This!
Now that you’ve read over 500 words on the importance of glute med, what should you do now? Add some glute med training to your program! But more importantly, if you did notice a Trendelenburg sign from earlier, it may be in your best interest to see an Exercise Physiologist as we are able to properly screen and assess your current function. We will also provide you with structured exercise programming not only to strengthen glute med and prevent injury but to also improve your daily functioning.