by Mike Verplanke DPT
The Gluteus Maximus is largest muscle in the body and is used for climbing stairs, sitting erect in the chair and Kim Kardashian’s fame. However, there are two other muscles that make up your posterior chain that are often overlooked; the Gluteus minimus and medius. These muscles are responsible for stabilization of the pelvis and abduction as you stand and walk. The strength of these muscles or lack thereof has been shown to have significant impact on several knee pathologies and injuries per an Abstract published by Powers in 2010.
Why such an impact? It is all about alignment of the leg each time you walk, run or stand. If your leg is at an increased angle it will produce more “load” on the knee resulting in injury. Using a diagnostic tool called EMG, clinicians can measure the timing, strength and duration of muscle firing. Reviewing the use of this data Barton et al confirmed the role of gluteal muscles in pulling the leg and knee joint into the correct alignment. This weakness in the hip muscles was found to have a strong correlation with knee pain in women according to a review by Prins and van def Wurff (2009). Additionally, as you fatigue it is no wonder that weaker muscles will fail first resulting in a more compromised gate as you progress in your activity.
“Runners with PFPS displayed weaker hip abductor muscles that were associated with an increase in hip adduction during running. This relationship became more pronounced at the end of the run.” Dierks Et Al
You might be thinking. “I run all the time, I bike 100 miles a week; heck my butt even looks good in lycra.” However, all those activities happen in the frontal plane (straight forward) which does not effectively develop the smaller muscles resulting in weakness in hip abductors and extensors. The good news is Mascal et al found in a case study that through simple consistent strengthening exercises patients were able to significantly increase gluteal strength and reduce Patella Femoral pain (Runners Knee).
How do you develop these muscles with names that will help you win a game of Scrabble? The first step is to consult a physician or find a local physical therapist. Additionally, to empower you on your recovery, we have created complete care kits for knee pain at Pains and Strains that contain proven exercises with the necessary strength bands and stretch straps needed to complete them. The kits also contain other therapies that work along with these exercises to speed your recovery by protecting the injury, reducing the swelling and providing immediate relief.
It is human nature to focus just on the part of the body that hurts and treat that area, but as we learned in that classic elementary school tune, “the hip bone is connected to the leg bone and the leg bone is connected to the knee bone.”
- The purpose of this post is educational and since there are many reasons for knee pain only your healthcare professional can create an exercise plan that is appropriate for your knee pain.