The gluteus medius is an often overlooked muscle among many. The glut medius is a hip abductor, it moves the leg to the side. It is also internally rotates the hip1. Weakness of this muscle often results in knee pain, hip pain, and/or low back pain. This muscle is a very important hip stabilizer.
When we are on one leg during running or walking, even though only for a split second, the glut medius is active. It fires in order to keep the pelvis from dropping down on the unsupported leg side, maintaining even hip level and stabilizing the femur in this position2. If this muscle is weak and unable to keep the hips even, the biomechanics for walking, running, squatting, etc. will be off and overcompensation patterns will begin. This may seem unimportant for only a few steps, but multiply that by how many steps you take per day and we begin to see how often this muscle is used.
How does this relate to knee pain?
In people with weak glut medius’, they display knee valgus during a squatting motion, walking, and/ or running2. This means that one or both knees collapse inwards, demonstrated in the pictures below. Due to the glut medius’ function as a hip abductor, it has the effect of pulling the knee outward. This helps to keep proper tracking of the patella, as was discussed in the previous blog post. If the glut medius is not able to keep the knee in proper alignment, knee pain will most likely be the result2. In a recent study that looked at overuse injuries in runners, these people had reduced hip abduction strength on the injured side compared to the uninjured side3.
Try this: Perform a standard glut bridge. You should feel this primarily in your gluts and secondarily in your hamstrings. From this bridged position, lift one leg off the floor. If your hip drops down on the unsupported side, this is indicative of a weak glut medius on the planted leg2.
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- Netter, Frank H. Atlas of Human Anatomy. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders/Elsevier, 2006. Print.
- Hollman JH, Ginos BE, Kozuchowski J, Vaughn AS, Krause DA, Youdas JW. Relationships between knee valgus, hip-muscle strength, and hip-muscle recruitment during a single-limb step-down. National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 06 June 2016.