The Anatomy of the Gluteus Minimus

The smallest muscles that makes up the glutes

In This Article

The gluteus minimus is the smallest muscle of the gluteal muscles. Together with the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius, these three muscles make up the glutes. Your glutes help shape your butt, stabilize your hips, rotate your legs, and raise your thigh. The gluteus minimus and gluteus medius specifically help the gluteus maximus raise your leg out to the side as well as rotate your thigh inwards and outwards.

Anatomy

The gluteus minimus muscle is triangular in shape and lies underneath the gluteus medius near the rotators of the hip joints. It starts in the lower part of the ilium—the upper and largest part of the hip bone that makes up the pelvis. It attaches to the femur (the thighbone).

The gluteus medius muscle starts on the upper part of the ilium, so it covers the gluteus minimus muscle completely. Because of its location, the gluteus minimus muscle covers the sciatic notch, an area in the pelvis that holds the piriformis muscle, superior gluteal vein, and superior gluteal artery, helping offer some protection.

Separating the gluteus minimus and the gluteus medius are superior gluteal nerves and blood vessels. The gluteus minimus’ structure is similar to the gluteus medius’, as both look like fans with two sets of fibers. The fibers on the top part of the muscle are thick and compact, while the lower fibers are flat and spread out more.

Function

The function of the gluteus minimus is to act as a flexor, abductor (swinging the leg out away from the body), and rotator (turning the leg both in toward the body and out away from the body).

How it moves depends on the location of the femur. When the thigh is extended, it helps abduct. When the hip bones are flexed, the gluteus minimus rotates the thigh inward with the help of the gluteus medius. When the hip is extended, the two glute muscles rotate the thigh outward. These movements are done with the help of the muscle fibers above and below the muscle, which contract to move the thigh in both directions.

Both the gluteus minimus and the gluteus medius also help to stabilize the hips and pelvis when in motion and when at rest.

Associated Conditions

One of the most common complaints with the gluteus minimus muscle is wear and tear on the muscle, which can cause pain. This is often called greater trochanteric pain syndrome (GTPS) because it results in pain (especially when lying on the side) in the greater trochanter area of the thigh—which consists of the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus as well as the piriformis muscle and another hip muscle called the obturator internus.

For a gluteus minimus tear, the pain will occur on the outside of the hip, especially when rolling onto the affected side. Activities like walking and exercising may also be painful. A gluteus minimus tear can happen suddenly—there may not be any particular activity that caused the tear to occur aside from daily use and stress on the muscle.

Rehabilitation

There are a few options to treat a gluteus minimus tear, depending on the severity of the condition. Often times, rest, ice, and over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or Tylenol to help reduce swelling and ease pain. For pain that is not subsiding, it’s recommended to see your doctor, who may run tests like an MRI or X-ray to see the condition of the muscle and rule out other pain causes.

Many times your doctor will refer you to a physical therapist, who can evaluate the strength of your gluteus minimus and provide you with a list of exercises and stretches to help repair the muscle while conditioning the surrounding muscles around the gluteus minimus.

Depending on the level of pain, sometimes a physician will prescribe treatment with a physical therapist in addition to a cortisone injection to the gluteus minimus muscle. This will help quickly ease the pain so that you’re able to do the physical therapy exercises comfortably, allowing the gluteus minimus muscle to heal properly and get stronger.

A Word From Verywell

If you have gluteus minimus pain and are unsure where to start to deal with it, or don’t know how to find a physical therapist, start with an appointment to your general practitioner. They can help diagnose your lower extremity pain and point you in the right direction for finding a physical therapist if needed.

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Article Sources

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  2. Reid D. The management of greater trochanteric pain syndrome: A systematic literature review. J Orthop. 2016;13(1):15-28. doi:10.1016/j.jor.2015.12.006

  3. SportsRec. Physical therapy exercises for the gluteus minimus.

  4. Labrosse JM, Cardinal E, Leduc BE, et al. Effectiveness of ultrasound-guided corticosteroid injection for the treatment of gluteus medius tendinopathy. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2010;194(1):202-6. doi:10.2214/AJR.08.1215

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