posted on January 8, 2020
During one of my first Swedish massage classes, our instructor asked how many of us had ever had a Massage Therapist work on our glutes. If I remember correctly, I believe one out of 15 or so said yes. I was not that one person and despite knowing the importance of the muscles in this area, I had never even known it was an option.
During a separate class we spent the entire time learning how to massage the muscle group and getting over our fear of working on an area that society has made feel off-limits. I get it. I get that it can be awkward, I get that it can cause someone anxiety, and at the least, it is out of the norm. However, if you feel comfortable with your Massage Therapist, it will be life changing!
Why? Consider the glutes to be your connecting force between your upper body and lower body. The glutes alone consist of the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in the body and primary hip extensor (think walking – as your foot hits the ground and moves you forward); the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, both hip abductors (think stepping to the side). Deep to the glute max and med, you have 6 (SIX!) external hip rotators: piriformis, gemellus superior and inferior, obturator internus and externus, and quadratus femoris. Aside from those nine muscles, the hip bone is the attachment site for many other muscles including more hip extensors (hamstrings), hip flexors (quads), abdominal and lower back muscles.
Who would benefit? Everyone. Literally everyone.
For us as lifters, we need all of these muscles! Each muscle has its primary action and when it cannot perform its intended job, the body finishes the task by compensating. This becomes an issue when it is a continuous pattern and can lead to, at the least, an incorrect trained movement, and at the worst, an injury.
During long bouts of sitting, the hip flexors become tight and after an extended period the glutes decide to shut down and the lower back will take over. If you have lower back pain, this is a likely cause.
Although a more serious case, piriformis syndrome is another possibility if the muscle remains tight for an extended period of time. This happens because the piriformis extends across the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve running from the lower back to the feet. If the muscle becomes too tight it will begin to compress the nerve causing sciatic symptoms such as pain or numbness in the butt or even along the entire leg.
How is the area worked? This can depend on the Massage Therapist. Personally I will work on the area while still covered. If it is a part of the massage, your legs will be covered with the top sheet and I will work through the draping. If it is a session directly focused on that area, I may have you wear gym shorts and lay over top of the sheets.
Well, there you have it. If you already have this area worked on, kudos to you! Your body thanks you for it. If not, I hope this has reminded you of an often forgotten but very important area of your body. As Shakira has said, “Hips don’t lie” and she is not wrong!