Gluteal Pain and Myofascial Release Work
Gluteal pain is a presentation that affects a lot of people and it can be caused by many factors, such as lifestyle, intense physical activity, overuse and bad posture, between others. The gluteal muscles, located in the buttocks, are responsible for keeping the body upright and supporting its weight as well as playing a major role in walking and functional movement.
When the gluteal muscles get irritated as a result of any of the above named factors, they can develop painful trigger that affect the correct functioning of the muscle and joint, can be painful and even disabling. Trigger points also known as “knots” form when part of a muscle fibre contracts and does not relax properly back to their neutral state. As we just mentioned above, these knots can cause pain when active, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the affected area. Gluteal pain can therefore be effectively treated by releasing these trigger points.
One of the most effective ways of releasing Trigger points and the symptoms linked to them is through Myofascial Trigger point work or Myofascial Release.
Gluteal Pain Caused by Trigger Points
Trigger points are hyper-irritable spots within the muscle tissue that can cause pain and discomfort. As we mentioned above the gluteal muscles are common hosts of Trigger Points.
When trigger points develop, they can be passive or active.
Passive Trigger Points are not actively causing pain. Although they might still be negatively affecting the range of motion of the connected joint and the performance of the muscle where they are located.
Active Trigger Points are actively causing pain and other symptoms.
Active Trigger Points in the gluteal area can cause pain and symptoms locally to the buttocks area or referred to other parts of the body, usually down the leg (causing sciatica-like symptoms) or onto the lower back and hip area.
Summarising, Trigger points in the gluteal area can cause pain in the following areas:
- Local pain in the gluteal area
- Pain that radiates down the leg, often recreating sciatica-like symptoms
- Pain in the lower back and hip area
Very often pain caused by Trigger Points get misdiagnosed with other more serious conditions, reason why it’s important to discard Trigger Points before jumping into complex diagnosis.
When Trigger Points are present these can be released through both Trigger Point work and Myofascial release work, which are at the same time deeply interrelated as treatment techniques.
There is no single solution for all problems. At Inside we use a mixed approach with these two different treatment modalities and several others combined together into a single session with the intention of increasing the effectiveness of the treatment.
Myofascial Release Work as an Effective Treatment Method for Gluteal pain
Myofascial release work is a manual therapy technique that targets the fascia, the connective tissue in our body that surrounds and supports the muscles. Far from being a dead tissue that keeps things together, the fascia has more nerve endings than the skin itself (more about this here), which makes it extremely sensitive to the environment in which it lives. The fascia reacts to pressure changes in our body adapting to new physical demands and challenges (which of course is a double-edge sword). The fascia also reacts to mental health (it gets inflamed with stress and fight or flight and works at its best when our body is in a relaxed state) and to lifestyle elements (diet, level of physical activity, etc.)
The Myofascial release therapist usually has a toolbox of techniques to choose from to release the fascial tissue. Some of these techniques are more direct than others, like for example applying steady pressure over a period of time with the intention to direct the fascial tissue in the desired direction. An example of a more indirect technique would be for example, putting a particular part of the body on a stretch and waiting for a change in the fascial tissue. The choice of techniques is different in each session and it is determined by the objective stablished at the beginning of the session.
Myofascial release is effective not only in the short term treatment of the gluteal pain but also in the long term as it addresses the body as a whole interconnected system, releasing other areas that might be causing or contributing to the condition.
Myofascial release work is a safe and non-invasive treatment method that can be used alongside other therapies. A qualified therapists we can design a treatment plan to address the underlying causes of gluteal pain.
Muscles and Trigger Points in the Gluteal Area
Understanding the location and referred pain patterns of trigger points is very important for the the effective treatment of gluteal pain.
Thanks to the formidable work of Dr Jannet Travell we know that Trigger Points in a specific muscle cause the same pain pattern in everyone. We have access to maps of referred pain pattern for every muscle in the body which gives us the ability to track the pain back to its source.
(read more about trigger point work here)
The gluteal area is complex and it consists of several layers of muscles with its respective trigger point pain patterns.
Here are some of the most common muscles involved in gluteal pain: the piriformis, the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
- The piriformis muscle is located deep in the gluteal region, beneath the gluteus maximus.
The trigger point referred pain pattern for the Piriformis muscle includes pain that can radiate down the back of the thigh but mainly pain in the buttocks area (see image below)
- The gluteus maximus the most superficial of the muscles in the gluteal area.
The trigger points in Gluteus Maximus refer pain around the buttocks area (image below)
- The gluteus medius, underneath the gluteus maximus and laterally.
The trigger in Gluteus Medius includes pain that radiates onto the lower back area, in the hip and buttocks (image below).
- The gluteus minimus, the smallest of the three gluteus muscles and is located deep to the gluteus medius.
Trigger points in this muscle can cause pain that radiates down the outside of the thigh and knee and all the way down to the foot (simulating sciatica-like symptoms) as well as locally in the buttocks area (image below)
Gluteal pain caused by trigger points can be a debilitating condition that affects many individuals. Myofascial release work and Trigger Point work are highly effective treatment methods that can resolve gluteal pain and improve overall quality of life specially when combined together into a single session. If you are experiencing gluteal pain, it is important to seek the advice of a qualified therapist to determine the underlying cause and develop a personalised treatment plan.