(Pulled Gluteal Muscle)En Español (Spanish Version)
A strained gluteal muscle is a partial tear of the small fibers of the gluteal muscles. The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles in the buttocks. This is not a common injury, but is sometimes seen in runners, dancers or other athletes.
Posterior Hip and Thigh Muscles
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A gluteal strain can be caused by:
- Stretching the gluteal muscles beyond the amount of tension that they can withstand
- Suddenly putting stress on the gluteal muscles when they are not ready for the stress
- Using the gluteal muscles too much on a certain day
- A direct blow to the gluteal muscles
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting an injury. Risk factors for a gluteal strain include:
Participation in sports that require bursts of speed, such as:
- Long jump
- Tight gluteal muscles
- Cold weather
- Pain and tenderness in the buttocks
- Stiffness in the gluteal muscles
- Weakness of the gluteal muscles
- Bruising on the buttocks (if blood vessels are broken)
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, your recent physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The doctor will also examine your buttocks for:
- Tenderness and bruising
- Pain when contracting the gluteal muscles, particularly against resistance
Muscle strains are graded according to their severity:
- Stretching with some microtearing of muscle fibers
- Recovery—2 weeks
- Partial tearing of muscle fibers
- Recovery—1-2 months
- Complete tearing (rupture) of muscle fibers (This is rare with the gluteal muscles.)
- Recovery—more than three months
For a severe gluteal strain, you may have an MRI scan. Professional and collegiate athletes sometimes have MRI scans to predict the length of recovery.
Treatment depends on the severity of the strain.
Treatment usually includes:
Do not do activities that cause pain, such as running, jumping, and weightlifting using the leg, hip, and buttocks muscles. If normal walking hurts, shorten your stride. Do not play sports until the pain is gone.
Apply ice or a cold pack to the affected buttock for 15-20 minutes, four times a day, for several days after the injury. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin.
Pain Relief Medications
Take aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®), or acetaminophen (Tylenol®) to help relieve pain. Ask your doctor if you have any questions about using these medications. If you still have tenderness in the buttocks while taking these drugs, do not return to physical activity. Check with your doctor before returning to activity.
Apply heat to the affected buttock only when you are returning to physical activity. Then use it before stretching or getting ready to play sports.
When the acute pain is gone, start gentle stretching and strengthening exercises as recommended by a healthcare professional. Stay within pain limits. Hold each stretch for about 10 seconds and repeat six times. Stretch several times each day.
To reduce the chance that you will strain a gluteal muscle:
- Keep your gluteal muscles strong so they can absorb the energy of sudden physical stress.
- After a short warm-up period, stretch your gluteal muscles before physical activity.
- Learn the proper technique for exercise and sporting activities. This will decrease stress on all your muscles, including your gluteal muscles.
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
American Council on Exercise
Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Healthy Living Unit
Public Health Agency of Canada
Physical Therapy Canada
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaos.org/.
The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.sportsmed.org/.
Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma. Available at: http://www.nismat.org/.
Sports Injuries: Basic Principles of Prevention and Care. Blackwell Scientific Publications; 1993.
Last reviewed May 2008 by Robert E. Leach, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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