Muscle Spotlight: Gluteus Medius and Minimus

If you’ve been reading the blog for the past couple of weeks, you’ll have noticed a bit of a theme. Namely, we’re taking a look at the gluteal muscles, how they’re addressed in massage sessions, and how they have vastly important functions in your day-to-day movement. Last post, we focused on the gluteus maximus, the largest and most powerful of the gluteal muscles. In this post, we’ll see what its associates – the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus – accomplish in the body!

The gluteus medius and minimus lie deep to the gluteus maximus (lie beneath it, in other words). Like the gluteus maximus they have the dual duty of helping to stabilize the hip as well as helping it move. The gluteus medius originates on the external surface of the ilium (the hip bone) between the crest of the hip and the posterior and anterior gluteal lines, and it inserts on the greater trochanter of the femur. In terms of actions, it shares a couple with the gluteus maximus, namely, abduction of the hip and extension of the hip. However, it also flexes the hip forward and may medially and laterally rotate the hip if needed, due to a slight twist in the fibers. This muscle is very important for stabilizing the action of walking.

Image courtesy of Trail Guide to the Body, Third Ed. by Andrew Biel.

The gluteus minimus is deep not only to the gluteus maximus, but also to the gluteus medius and tensor fascia lata muscles. It originates at nearly the exact same spot as the gluteus medius, except that it has no attachments to the external iliac crest, and only originates between the anterior and inferior gluteal lines. It inserts on the anterior border of the greater trochanter, similarly to the gluteus medius. Its actions, as can be expected, are similar to the other two muscles, in that it also abducts the hip and flexes the hip. In addition, it medially rotates the hip (towards the midline of the body) to help with the motion of walking.

Image courtesy of Trail Guide to the Body, Third Ed. by Andrew Biel.

While these two muscles may not be as large or as powerful as the gluteus maximus, they still do their part to stabilize the hips, and greatly assist with the motions of walking. Just as with the gluteus maximus, dysfunction in these two muscles can lead to overcompensation by the other muscles of the pelvis and even by the low back, contributing to low back pain and other issues, which is why it is so important to give them proper attention, whether by massage, stretching, or strengthening exercises.

One more post remains highlighting the muscles of the pelvis! Next week, we’ll take a look at the “deep six” muscles and see how one of them is often a huge contributor to painful sciatica!