The Gluteus Medius Muscle

Woman running with hip muscles exposed
Your glutes help to keep your hips and knees in alignment. Henning Dalhoff / Getty Images

The gluteus medius muscle is one of the muscles on the side of your hip. It resides underneath your gluteus maximus muscle (buttocks muscle), and works with another small muscle, the gluteus minimus, to help support your hip. In the physical therapy world of rehabbing lower extremity injuries, it is super important. Here's why.

What Does the Gluteus Medius Do?

The function of the gluteus medius muscle is to work with other muscles on the side of your hip to help pull your thigh out to the side in a motion called hip abduction.

The gluteus medius also serves to rotate your thigh.

The gluteus medius muscle is important in walking. When you are standing on one foot and holding the other leg up in the air, the gluteus medius on the stance leg is very active in helping to keep your pelvis level. For example, when walking and lifting your left leg up and forward, the right gluteus medius is contracting to keep your body level.

Injury to the Gluteus Medius

Injury to the gluteus medius is rare, but it can happen. Muscle and tendon tears might occur as the result of sports participation or falls. And a bursa, or fluid-filled sac, lies between the gluteal muscles and the bony prominence of your hip, and irritation may cause hip bursitis.

The gluteus medius may indirectly contribute to many other lower extremity problems. Weakness in this muscle group has been implicated in conditions such as:

Weakness in your gluteus medius may cause your thigh to angle inwards and rotate abnormally during walking, running, and jumping, which may cause excessive stress through your knee and ankle, and may place you at increased risk of injury if the weakness persists.

When this happens, your PT may call it a collapsing kinetic chain; your entire knee turns and bends inwards, like it is collapsing.

If you are having hip pain, knee pain, or any other lower extremity problem, your physical therapist should include a muscular screening of the gluteal muscles. If weakness is identified, specific exercises can be initiated to improve the function of the gluteus medius. These exercises may include:

Learning how to use your glutes properly during high level athletics that require jumping and quick motions is important too. Your physical therapist can teach you how to jump and land properly by using your glutes to keep your knees and ankles in the right position. Hoping on one foot also requires strong hips and gluteal muscles, and your PT may incorporate this into your rehab program after hip, knee, or ankle injury.

Just be sure to speak with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program to make sure it is safe for you to do.

A Word from Verywell

If you are having any sort of lower extremity problem, you may be surprised that your PT is checking your hip strength and the function of your gluteus medius.

Don't despair; significant evidence indicates that this muscle group is important in many day-to-day functions.

The gluteus medius is an important hip stabilizer that helps to control the position of your pelvis, hips, knees, and ankles. If you are having any lower extremity pain, check in with your doctor and then visit your phyiscal therapist to start on the right treatment for you. Ask your PT to check you glutes and make sure that they are functioning properly to help you get back to your normal, pain-free activity level.

Source: Moore, K. L., & Dalley, A. F. (1999). Clinically oriented anatomy. (4th edition ed.). Williams & Wilkins.

Witvrouw, E. etal. Patellofemoral pain: consensus statement from the 3rd International Patellofemoral Pain Research Retreat held in Vancouver, September 2013. BJSM: 2014; 48: 411-414.

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