What does gluteus minimus mean?
The gluteus minimus muscle is not well known, but it is extremely important when it comes to hip stability.
- The word gluteus is the new Latin name, but it derives from Greek gloutos which means buttock or rump.
- The word minimus refers to this being the smallest of three gluteal muscles that make up the buttocks. The other two are gluteus medius and gluteus maximus.
Where does the gluteus minimus muscle attach?
- Gluteus minimus attaches between the inferior and anterior gluteal lines. This is referred to commonly as the “origin” or proximal attachment. The gluteal lines are bumpy lines on the outer surface of the pelvis. There are three of them, inferior, anterior, and posterior.
- The other end of the muscle, which is referred to as the “insertion” or distal attachment, attaches onto the front of the greater trochanter of the femur. The greater trochanter is a large bony protrusion or bump felt on the outside of the hip. You can see the area of attachment at the blue arrow in the image to the right.
What are the actions of the gluteus minimus muscle?
- Anterior: flexes and internally rotates the femur at the hip joint
- Posterior: extends and externally rotates the femur at the hip joint
- Together: abduction of the hip joint or stabilizes the pelvis relative to the femur, which is used in walking
The gluteus minimus has an interesting set of actions. It is not so different from last month’s muscle of the month, the deltoids. In fact, I often refer to the gluteals as the deltoids of the hip joint. The movement of the gluteus minimus is interesting because the anterior portion functions in opposition to the posterior portion. For instance, if I raise my leg in front of me (flexion of the hip joint), the anterior part of the gluteus minimus contracts to help lift my leg up. The posterior part of the gluteus minimus lengthens while my hip joint flexes.
We could say that the gluteus minimus is antagonistic to itself.
Postures where this muscle contracts
On the right side: gluteus minimus contracts to stabilize the femur relative to the pelvis.
In the pose below, the gluteus minimus contracts on the left side to stabilize the femur relative to the pelvis.
Postures where this muscle is lengthened
In this image the emphasis is on the left side. The gluteus minimus, along with the deep 6 lateral rotators, lengthens when we fold forward.
The hip joint is adducted on the right side, which adds length to the abductors including gluteus minimus.
Gluteus minimus injury
Although there is no “common” injury to this muscle, it is often part of the common restrictions we see in yoga. I spoke about this area in an article that describes the gluteal and psoas relationship. It also came up in the very popular sit bone pain revisited article where we see that the trigger points from this muscle can mimic sciatica as well as give the feeling of having sit bone pain. (I just saw another case of sit bone pain coming from gluteus minimus trigger points this week!) Also check out this post where I answer a question of the month: “Butt Pain and Sciatica: How Do I Tell if This Butt Pain is Sciatica?“. In many of these cases, part of the course of action I suggest is to do firelog pose, and, here is a link to the video I did a couple of years back.