What Causes Pain in the Gluteus Maximus?

A. Pasbjerg

Pain in the gluteus maximus can occur for a variety of reasons. The muscle can become damaged during physical activity due to overuse or lack of stretching. People who sit for long periods during the day may injure the muscle if they have poor posture or do not get up and move around from time to time. Sometimes pain in the gluteus maximus can result from sciatica originating in the lower back that then travels down the buttocks to the legs.

Stretching the gluteus maximus prior to exercising may help relieve pain.
Stretching the gluteus maximus prior to exercising may help relieve pain.

Many physical activities and sports, such as running or swimming, involve heavy use of the gluteus maximus, so injuries related to these activities are a common source of pain. These can occur for a variety of reasons. Some people who are new to their chosen activity may do too much too quickly, and will damage muscles not accustomed to so much exercise. More experienced athletes may simply overextend themselves.

The sciatic nerve passes through from the back down to the leg.
The sciatic nerve passes through from the back down to the leg.

Anyone participating in a sport that uses the gluteus maximus muscle should stretch it and other nearby muscles like the hamstrings before starting. Those who do not increase the risk of straining or tearing it, though excessive stretching can have the same effect. Participation in physical activities can also simply increase the chances of an accident like a fall where the muscle can get bruised or torn.

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Gluteus maximus discomfort caused by sciatic nerve pain may be treated with physical therapy.
Gluteus maximus discomfort caused by sciatic nerve pain may be treated with physical therapy.

Another frequent source of pain in the gluteus maximus is sitting for long periods of time. This is often a problem for people with jobs that require them to do so, like those who work on computers all day. Often their chairs are not designed to be comfortable or supportive to the gluteus maxmimus and surrounding muscles. They may encourage poor posture as well, which can in turn stress the gluteus maximus as it tries to support the body. Pain may especially be a problem for people who do not take the time to get up and move or stretch frequently.

If the sciatic nerve is compressed, the resulting pain can radiate down one or both buttocks.
If the sciatic nerve is compressed, the resulting pain can radiate down one or both buttocks.

Sometimes pain in the gluteus maximus is not a result of a problem with the muscle itself, but instead stems from sciatic nerve pain. This nerve, which runs from the lower back through the buttocks and down to the legs, can become compressed due to issues with the lower back such as a herniated disk. This in turn leads to pain, which can range from mild to severe, that will radiate down one or both buttocks.

Pain in the gluteus maximus may be caused by a herniated disk in the lower back.
Pain in the gluteus maximus may be caused by a herniated disk in the lower back.

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