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Understanding your Glutes

Understanding your Glutes

The glutes, or gluteal muscles, are a group of three muscles that make up the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. These muscles are pivotal in maintaining our body’s posture, supporting a range of movements, and ensuring overall lower body strength and stability. So let’s first talk about the anatomy.

1. Gluteus Maximus:

The largest and most superficial of the three muscles, the gluteus maximus is primarily responsible for the extension and outward rotation of the hip. It plays a crucial role in movements such as climbing stairs, rising from a seated position, and running.

2. Gluteus Medius:

Located beneath the gluteus maximus, this muscle is essential for the abduction and internal rotation of the thigh. It stabilises the pelvis during walking and single-leg activities.

3. Gluteus Minimus:

The smallest and deepest gluteal muscle, the gluteus minimus works with the gluteus medius to abduct and medially rotate the thigh, further contributing to pelvic stability. This is also your “pseudo sciatic” muscle, as it can often refer pain all the way down the leg, mimicking sciatica. Who would have thought such a small muscle can cause such a big problem.

Why do the glutes matter?

So now we know the basics, what is the clinical importance of strong glutes? As much as so many of us seek to work glutes at the gym, there is a lot more importance to these muscles than just aesthetics. Strong Glutes benefit us in the following ways:

1. Posture and Spinal mechanics: The glutes are critical for maintaining an upright posture and proper spinal movement. Weak glutes can lead to compensatory patterns and poor posture, contributing to lower back pain and spinal issues.

2. Hip and Knee Health: The glutes help stabilise the hips and knees during movement. Weakness in these muscles can cause the pelvis to tilt or the knees to move inward (valgus alignment), increasing the risk of injuries such as patellofemoral pain syndrome and iliotibial band syndrome.

3. Injury Prevention: Strong glutes can absorb shock and reduce the impact on the lower back and knees during physical activities. This protective function is vital for athletes and individuals engaged in regular physical exercise, helping to prevent strains and overuse injuries.

4. Enhanced Mobility and Functionality: Functional glute muscles improve overall mobility, making everyday tasks like walking, climbing stairs, and lifting objects easier and more efficient. This is particularly important for older adults, where muscle atrophy can lead to decreased independence.

What happens when the glutes don’t work?

Let’s now consider what happens when the glutes aren’t pulling their weight and the common issues that we might see present in the clinic:

1. Gluteal Tendonopathy: This condition involves inflammation or degeneration of the tendons in the gluteal region, often resulting from overuse or improper training techniques. Symptoms include pain and tenderness in the hip area, particularly when lying on the affected side.

2. Piriformis Syndrome: Although not a gluteal muscle, the piriformis is closely associated with the glutes. Tightness or spasms in this muscle can compress the sciatic nerve, causing pain, numbness, and tingling along the leg.

3. Lower Back Pain: Weak glutes can lead to an over-reliance on the lower back muscles during activities, contributing to chronic pain and discomfort in the lumbar region. It’s worth remembering that the glutes can be particularly lazy muscles and they are more than happy for our low backs to take their workload. You might not notice it at first, but as the low back muscles start to fatigue from the extra work, pain creeps in and our risk of injury increases.

Now at this point you might be wondering what you can do to help yourself when it comes to your Glutes. Well, its time to literally get your bum in gear and by incorporating exercises like squats, lunges, hip thrusts, and deadlifts into your routine can help strengthen the glutes. Additionally, targeted exercises such as clamshells, glute bridges, and lateral band walks can activate and build these muscles effectively.

More than just a big muscle…

In conclusion the glutes are more than just the muscles that shape our backside; they are fundamental to our overall musculoskeletal health and functionality. Understanding their role and maintaining their strength can lead to better posture, reduced injury risk, and enhanced physical performance, contributing to a healthier, more active lifestyle. Sometimes we all need a little help getting on top of the situation, and muscle imbalances can take time to change. We recommend booking in with your chiropractor first to determine if it is a glute issue and then get tailored treatment and exercises. It’s important to calm the pain and symptoms before we jump straight into reconditioning. Sometimes you really do need to start at the bottom and work your way up! For further help please get in touch with us here at Acorn Health or take a look at the videos we upload for some more targeted glute rehab.

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