Why Has My Physio Given Me Exercises to Strengthen My Buttock Muscles When My Problem is in My Knee?

Damien Moore (Physiotherapist – Burnie)

You’ve gone to your physio for a persisting knee problem but after the assessment you have been prescribed buttock strengthening exercises to perform at home. Why?

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Well there’s evidence that many knee conditions including:

  • knee cap pain
  • knee osteoarthritis
  • anterior cruciate ligament injuries

are linked to dysfunction of the buttock muscles, namely the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles.

In fact dysfunction of these muscles is linked with many common lower limb injuries including:

  • ankle sprains
  • shin splints
  • hip osteoarthritis
  • groin pain
  • low back pain

Which Muscles in the Buttock and What do They Do?

The gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus are 2 key muscles located on the outside of the hip that act to stabilise and control movement through the pelvis and hip with everyday functional tasks such as walking and stair climbing, as well as athletic tasks such as hopping and running.

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What Happens With Gluteal Dysfunction?

For one reason or another these muscles can get weak or lose their ability to activate when required, leading to potentially inefficient movement patterns with activity, such as the knee moving inwards and / or the pelvis dropping. This can lead to other areas from the lower back to down the leg “breaking down” or further exacerbating a pre-existing injury.

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How Do I Know if I Need to Do these Exercises Targeting These Muscles?

It can be difficult to know without an individualised assessment of your condition which examines the way you move and how strong your buttock muscles are.

What Are The Best Exercises to Target These Muscles?

There are many different exercises that can target these muscles effectively for strengthening such as single limb support exercises and side-lie open chain hip abduction (see Figure 1). However effective prescription is individualised and requires Physiotherapy assessment to determine the appropriate exercise based on your own functional abilities. Contact one of our Physiotherapists at Coastal Physiotherapy for an assessment to determine the best course of treatment for your knee condition.

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Figure Side-lie Open Chain Hip Abduction

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Figure Single Leg Squat

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Figure Single Leg Bridge