You’ve probably heard of the gluteus maximus — the medical term for the biggest butt muscle. But most people never hear about the lesser-known gluteus medius — until they injure it.
The gluteus medius is another big muscle near your butt, located on the outer surface of your pelvis, near your hip. In fact, it’s the gluteus medius that helps flex, extend and rotate your hip for all sorts of movements and motions. Along with the gluteus maximus and gluteus minimus muscles, the gluteus medius also helps stabilize your pelvis.
The gluteus medius starts around your hip bone and extends down to the top of your thigh bone, or femur. A gluteus medius tear happens when the muscle is torn away from this bone, either completely or partially.
What Causes a Gluteus Medius Tear?
Most gluteus medius tear surgeries occur due to overuse injuries. They’re especially common among athletes, like runners, basketball players and football players. However, a gluteus medius tear can occur in anyone — even people with sedentary lifestyles. Most gluteus medius injury is caused by:
- Sudden increases in physical activity without warming up first
- Increased activity after a long period of being sedentary
- Running on uneven surfaces or inclines
- Traumatic injuries, like serious falls or accidents
- Age-related degeneration of the muscle or tendon
Injuries are also more common in people whose gluteus medius muscles are stiff or weak.
The most common symptom of a gluteus medius tear is pain in and around your hip, especially when you put weight on your leg. You may also feel pain in your hip when you lie on the affected side, or areas of tenderness and swelling near the hip. Gluteus medius function is often impaired, and you might have trouble flexing or extending your hip.
Unless the damage to the muscle or tendon is very minimal, a gluteus medius tear requires surgery to fix it. In most cases, Dr. Van Thiel uses a minimally-invasive technique called arthroscopy. Hip arthroscopy uses very small incisions and a tiny camera that lets Dr. Van Thiel see the surgical site without using a large incision. Minimally-invasive surgery also causes less tissue damage, so your recovery can be faster and more comfortable.
Recovering from Gluteus Medius Tear Surgery
After your surgery, your activity will be restricted while your hip recovers. You’ll need to use crutches and wear a hip brace for several weeks to protect and stabilize the joint. Moving and using your hip during this time is important for circulation and healing. Be sure to follow Dr. Van Thiel’s guidelines closely. At first, you won’t be able to drive or lift or carry loads. But over time, you’ll be able to incorporate more activities until you’re back to your regular routine. For instance, most office workers can return to their jobs within a couple of weeks. People who spend a lot of time on their feet or do a lot of bending or lifting probably won’t be able to return to work for six weeks or more.
A few weeks after your surgery, you’ll start physical therapy. Your physical therapist will guide you through a series of gluteus medius strengthening exercises to restore normal function to the muscle. Other gluteus medius exercises will focus on flexibility of the joint. In addition to improving gluteus medius function, therapy also helps prevent a buildup of scar tissue that could otherwise interfere with normal hip movement. During therapy, it’s important to let your therapist know when you feel pain. Some discomfort is normal and acceptable, but too much pain could mean your therapy is a little too aggressive. Working with your therapist is the best way to ensure your recovery moves forward at a good pace for your needs.
How long will it take to reach a full recovery from gluteus medius surgery?
Gluteus medius tear surgery recovery time can vary, depending on the extent of your injury, your activity level before your injury, and other factors. Most people need about three months before their hip is fully functional again. Sometimes, it takes about a year before gluteus medius function is completely restored. The most important thing to remember during recovery is to follow the instructions provided to you by Dr. Van Thiel and your physical therapist. Trying to do too much too soon won’t speed-up the healing process. In fact, in many cases, it can result in a longer recovery time.
State-of-the-art gluteus medius tear surgery and repair
Gluteus medius injury is just one cause of hip pain. The only way to know for sure what’s causing your symptoms is to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Van Thiel. If you’re experiencing any type of symptoms in your hips, get the treatment you need to prevent those symptoms from getting worse. Call OrthoIllinois at (779) 774-1110 and schedule an appointment with Dr. Van Thiel today.