Remember when we talked about standing on one leg to see if your hip on the opposite side of your stance leg dropped? When we do that, we’re actually looking at the strength of your gluteus medius- one of the three gluteus muscles (maximus, minimus and medius). As “gluteus medius” kind of sounds like a Harry Potter spell, we’re going to refer to it as “glute med” from here on out…
So, what does the glute med do?
The glute med is an abductor of the leg – meaning it functions to move your leg away from the midline of your body. In running and walking, it works to stabilize the pelvis on the opposite side. This is why standing on one leg and looking for that opposite side hip drop can identify weakness in this area, like this:
So if you have a weak glute med on that stance leg, it won’t be able to hold up the pelvis in a nice and stable fashion when you’re on one leg. This kind of hip drop is referred to as a Trendelenburg Gait (just so you can impress your friends with this fancy term!). And, do you know what makes this muscle weak? The thing that you’re probably doing as you read this: sitting.
Anyways…why is this important?
Well, when such an important stabilizing muscle is weak, other muscles have to pick up the slack for that weakness – and that means injuries are on the horizon. Here are two of the most common, pesky injuries that can happen from a weak glute med:
Lower Back Pain
When your pelvis isn’t stable, lower back muscles work in overdrive to try to pick up the slack of that weak glute med. When these muscles over-fire and over-shorten (like your quadratus lumborum, for example), you can experience some serious pain.
If the glute med isn’t working to abduct that leg – or take it away from midline – it’s going to be more adducted, or more toward inline. This can put extra stress on the inner portion of the knee and the stabilizing structures there (like the medial collateral ligament, for example), leading to knee pain.
So how can you combat weakness in the glute med? Stay tuned on Symmetry Physical Therapy’s social media (@symmetryptimiami on Instagram and on Facebook) for upcoming examples of the following glute med strengthening exercises:
- Side-lying hip abduction
- Side planks
- Lateral band walks