Hip abductors are a group of muscles on the side of your pelvis, attaching to your femur, the big bone of the thigh, as well as even further down the leg. Primarily comprised of the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and the tensor fascia lata (TFL). The movement they produce is bringing your leg away from midline – like when doing a snow angel. Importantly, these muscles also play an integral roll in stability
of the pelvis when standing on one foot (walking, stairs, balance, running, etc.).
Hip Abductor Dysfunction & Where it May Lead
Dysfunction of this muscle group may include injury, weakness, and poor control/timing of the muscles. All of these can negatively impact functional abilities, whether they be sport performance or ability to safely/comfortably walk. The gluteus medius in particular is an often researched muscle and, when weak or dysfunctional, has been linked to ACL injuries, IT band syndrome, ankle sprains, and knee pain. Interestingly, a study comparing gluteus medius function in those with and without back pain also found decreased strength in those suffering from low back pain. Lastly, falls, hip osteoarthritis (OA) and replacement surgeries are more cases where this muscle group is highlighted. Poor strength and control of hip abductors has been shown to predict falls in those older than 65 years of age. Those living with hip OA have been suggested to have weaker gluteus medius strength when electrical activity is measured when walking, as well as going up and down stairs. Furthermore, after hip replacement surgery these muscles are expectedly weakened. The good news is, there is research to suggest these muscles can be made larger, stronger, and lend themselves to increased functional ability with the right training.
Strength & Control of Hip Abductors
Developing strength and control of this muscle group can imaginably improve one’s functional ability and quality of life. The ‘Trendelenburg Gait” is a common sign of those with impaired strength and function. It is marked by one hip dropping to the side when walking or standing on one foot. This is an instance where strength and control are important to develop. As with the rest of the body, building the muscles’ maximal strength and endurance can result to an increased ability to tolerate the forces of activities of daily living, as well as performance in sports/activities that are meaningful to you.
Physiotherapists are exercise specialists. An assessment can determine the underlying cause of pain and dysfunction, where your current abilities are, and how to best proceed. Treatments such as soft-tissue techniques, manual therapy, needling, etc. can work in conjunction to exercise prescription to improve your symptoms and allow you to return to meaningful activities. Exercises can be tailored to be specific to your current problems and what you would like to be able to do. Contact us today to learn more.