Gluteus Medius Muscle Facts

The Muscle that Keeps You from Toppling Over Sideways

Your gluteus medius muscles, located at the sides of your hips, help you walk, climb stairs, and get up from a chair.

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What is the Gluteus Medius Muscle?

The gluteus medius is a fan-shaped muscle located on the side of your hip. This location positions the gluteus medius as a key muscle used to maintain your posture and the health of your back.

The gluteus medius is a hip abductor muscle (moves the hip away from the center of your body).

Gluteus Medius — What's So Special About It?

The hallmark role of the gluteus medius muscle is pelvic stability. It keeps you from toppling over sideways when you walk and stand. The gluteus medius coordinates with the rest of the hip muscles to keep the pelvis in balance during other types of movements, as well. This is important when you do core stabilization work and it may also help prevent injury and prevent back pain.

In fact, a critical but often overlooked function of the gluteus medius is to maintain hip alignment when you stand on one leg. This means it plays a role in walking, running, and some standing balance exercises. As it does so, the gluteus medius contracts isometrically, that is, without either shortening or lengthening.

Gluteus Medius — The Anatomy and Movement

The gluteus medius originates on the external surface of the outside of the ilium (hip bone. It traverses downward — narrowing as it goes — to insert on the greater trochanter, a large knob of bone located on the outside of the upper thigh bone.

If you could visualize the gluteus medius muscle from the side, you'd see it as a fan shape that starts at the greater trochanter, where it looks a bit like a stem and widens up and out to cover the side of the hip bone.

The gluteus medius is one of several hip muscles — each with its own location and specialized action around the hip joint — that connects the thigh bone and the pelvis.

The job of the gluteus medius is to abduct the thigh relative to the pelvis and to internally rotate the thigh.

But abduction can happen another way, too. When you stand with your feet planted and stationary, you should be able to tilt your trunk to one side. While side tilting involves some spinal movement, it also involves tilting your pelvis sideways. 

Pelvic tilting during standing abduction is accomplished by two things:

  • A contraction of the gluteus medius on the same side
  • Sideways sliding of the pelvis toward the opposite direction

The combination maintains balance while you move your hip. As you can see, standing hip abduction is much more complex than simply taking the lower extremity out to the side, yet they both contract the gluteus medius muscle and move the hip and thigh away from each other.

Knowing this may help you tailor your selection of therapeutic exercises to your goal, condition, and/or preferred level of challenge.

Joint Movement and Planning Your Therapeutic Exercise Program

Most therapeutic or corrective exercise programs aimed at relieving low back pain include strengthening and stretching exercises for all the muscles that surround the hip joint, including the gluteus medius. This is because the hip joint is key for body stability and locomotion. Your therapist or doctor may test this muscle with single-hop testing.

Support for your lumbar spine comes from back and core muscles as well as from the hip joint and its muscles. And the gluteus medius is certainly one of these muscles!

A Word from VeryWell

Your body posture relies on hip muscle strength and flexibility. If the gluteus medius muscle becomes weak or damaged, it can lead to unnecessary compression or loading of spinal joints, poor posture, and pain.

 

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