Gluteal Muscles Governs Hip Movement and Butt Shape

Gluteal Muscles: Governs the Hip Movement and Butt Shape

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 14 May 2014 - 09:52.

The shape of the buttocks and the movements of the hip is controlled and maintained by a group of muscles called the Gluteal Muscles.

The gluteal muscles comprise a group of three muscles named individually as Gluteus Maximus, Gluteal Medius and the Gluteus Minimus. Singularly each muscle is called as Gluteus and plurally, Glutei. In other words there are three pairs of gluteal muscles three each for either buttock.

The Gluteus Maximus: is one of the largest muscles in the body. It is also the heaviest and the most coarsely fibred muscle in the gluteal region (the buttock region). Most of the roundness in the shape of the buttock is contributed by this muscle. When the thigh is extended (when we keep our thigh straight at the hip) it forms a thick quadrilateral pad over the ischial tuberosity (a projection of one of the three bones of the hip called ischium, the other two being ilium and pubis). One can feel the ischial tuberosity very prominently when the thigh is flexed at the hip, because during flexion the lower border of this muscle moves up, exposing the prominence of the tuberosity.

Proximally i.e. upwards, the muscle is attached to several surfaces of a group of bones like ilium, sacrum and coccyx.

Distally, i.e. downwards, the muscle is attached mostly to the gluteal tuberosity of the femur (thigh bone). The muscle has rich supply of blood and is innervated by the inferior gluteal nerve. It slopes downwards and away from midline of the thigh from the pelvis across the buttock at an angle of 45 degrees. The lower edge of the muscle lies above the gluteal fold, which is produced by the bulging fat. The main action of the muscle is to extend the thigh and steady it. It is the chief extensor of the thigh. It helps extending the whole pelvis when we rise from a seated or arched position.

It also assists with lateral rotation of the thigh. It is very little used during ordinary walking and is relaxed when we stand still. Its action is most needed when force is required in the act of running, climbing and similar activities. When we flex the thigh, it tilts the upper part of the pelvis as in the sitting posture. The gluteus maximus steadies the movement by relaxing gradually. When the muscle acts from its lower end, it tilts the upper part of the pelvis backwards like in the standing posture in attention position.

The Gluteus Medius: It is a thick fan-shaped muscle, triangular in shape and lies deep into the gluteus maximus on the outer surface of the ilium bone. Like the gluteus maximus, it has attachments to several bony parts, both upwards and downwards. It is a strong abductor of the hip joint (moves the hip outwards away from the midline) and plays an important role in locomotion, being responsible for the tilt of the pelvis.

When the left gluteus medius pulls the left side of the pelvis down, the right side is prevented from sagging as we raise the right limb during walking. Conversely the right gluteus muscle permits the left foot to clear the ground during walking. This muscle also helps to rotate the thigh inwards. To sum up, the gluteus medius abducts and medially rotates the thigh and keeps the pelvis steady while walking.

The Gluteus Minimus: One of the three-gluteal muscles, this muscle is like the medius a fan-shaped muscle and is the smallest of the three and lies deep into the gluteus medius. The superior gluteal nerves innervate this muscle. When we walk, its actions are similar to that of the gluteus medius. Though smallest amongst the three, its anterior fibres help rotate the thigh medially more strongly than the fibres of the gluteus medius.

From the brief description of the three gluteal muscles with special mention of their actions one can visualize easily as to what can go wrong if something happens to one or all the three glutei which might include problems in blood supply, nerve supply, tears due to injuries and other causes.

Several conditions may affect one or all the three-gluteal muscles such as:

  • Inadequate blood supply to the gluteal muscles.
  • Problematic nerves supplying the muscles.
  • Muscle injury or fractures of the bones attached to gluteal muscle.
  • Strain in the muscles or even a tear in the muscle often resulting from over use of the muscles eg. sprinters and athletes.

Gluteal Strain:

This is the most common condition affecting the gluteal muscle(s). Also known as Pulled Gluteal Muscles, a strain in the gluteal muscle is due to a partial tear of the small muscle fibers of the gluteal muscles.

The strain in a gluteal muscle can occur due to:

  • Stretching the gluteal muscles beyond a comfortable limit.
  • Sudden stress on the gluteal muscles when they are least prepared.
  • Over usage of the gluteal muscles on a particular day.
  • A direct blow to the gluteal muscles with an external object or a fall of a heavy object on the gluteal region.

Majority of the cases of gluteal strain are seen in sportspersons and are risk prone increasing the chances of getting an injury.

 These risk factors include:

  • Running, long jump, basket ball, football etc.
  • Fatigue due to over-exercising
  • Very tight gluteal muscles
  • evere cold weather

Whatever the cause maybe, the main symptoms of a gluteal strain includes pain and tenderness in the buttocks, stiffness in the gluteal muscles, weakness of the gluteal muscles, bruising with discoloration on the skin if the blood vessels are torn.

Diagnosis is easy when the doctor elicits pain on the buttocks when touched or pressed, particularly if there is history of severe exercise or some sort of sensation of a pull when running like in outdoor games.

Muscle strain in the gluteal muscles are graded according to the severity of the strain namely:

1.      Grade 1: Stretching with minimal tearing of the muscle fibers and recovery possible within 2 weeks of occurrence.

2.      Grade 2: Partial tearing of the muscle fibers and recovery period exceeding 1 to 2 months.

3.      Grade 3: Complete tearing (rupture) of the muscle fibers though rare with gluteal muscles and recovery needs more than 3 months.

For severe gluteal strains an MRI of the muscles is an absolute must to decide the extent of involvement and also to monitor the degree of improvement during treatment.

Treatment of gluteal strain depends on the degree of involvement and the severity of the strain in terms of pain when an attempt is made to move the hip joint.

Resting the muscle is the most important part of the treatment. Cold compressors like applying ice or cold packs for 10 to 15 minutes, also helps. Pain killers like ibuprofen, aspirin group of drugs or any other anti-inflammatory drugs are generally prescribed. Applying heat to the affected buttock, only when you are returning to physical activity may help. Sretching and muscle strengthening exercises is helpful when there is evidence of weakness in the muscles.

Prevention: The best way to prevent the occurrence of strain to the gluteus is:

  • Keeping the gluteal muscles strong to absorb the energy of sudden physical stress.
  • After a slight warm up exercise stretch the gluteal muscles before any physical activity.
  • You should be able to grasp the correct technique of any strenuous exercise or sport activity.



*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.