Dr. John Phelts, a chiropractor and applied kinesiologist with over 20 years of experience in New York, NY, has diagnosed numerous patients with low back pain. Through his extensive experience, he has found that approximately 80% of his cases stem from the sacroiliac (SI) joint6., where the sacrum and ilium bones connect. Misalignment of these bones can cause pain and inflammation, leading to recurring episodes of severe low back pain. Fortunately, Dr. Phelts utilizes effective treatments that often yield substantial improvement after just one session.
He finds that dysfunction of the gluteus maximus muscle along with other stabilizers of the SI joint play a role in SI joint sprains. In this blog post we will solely focus on the gluteus maximus. Although it's widely recognized as the body's strongest muscle, it’s often only appreciated for its aesthetic contribution to the human body. Let us explore its complex roles and functions.
The Gluteus maximus is instrumental in ensuring the stability of the lower back and pelvis, maintaining an upright posture, and generating powerful and explosive movements of the body.
The sacrum (the lower part of the spine) along with the ilium, form the sacroiliac or SI joint, located in the posterior pelvis area. The gluteus maximus muscle plays an important role in stabilizing the sacroiliac joint1. The muscle fibers of the gluteus maximus muscle attach to the posterior sacrum and ilium, and their contraction generates a compressive force across the sacroiliac joint, which helps to stabilize It. It also attaches to the femur and IT band, allowing it to extend and externally rotate the hip. In addition, the gluteus maximus muscle works in conjunction with other muscles, such as the piriformis muscle, to provide additional stability to the sacroiliac joint3
Acting as a strong safeguard, the Glute Max works synergistically with a strong group of ligaments and additional muscles to uphold the structural integrity of the SI joint. .
Optimal performance of the Gluteus Maximus depends on the precise alignment of the Sacrum and Ilium. Any misalignment might impede the functionality of the Gluteus Maximus and further exacerbate SI joint dysfunction. The ligaments of the SI joint serve as the principal stabilizers, tasked with limiting the movement of the SI joint to less than 2 degrees. A misalignment exceeding 2 degrees can place excessive stress on these ligaments, creating an environment conducive to SI sprains and debilitating back pain.
Studies have also found that altered function of the gluteus maximus muscle is associated with sacroiliac joint dysfunction4. This makes sense, since a poor performing gluteus maximus would mean altered support of the SI joint. Therefore, addressing the gluteus maximus muscle with applied kinesiology treatments may be beneficial for individuals with sacroiliac joint dysfunction. It can help reduce pain and the risk of spraining the SI joint5.
A poor functioning gluteus maximus can cause SI problems and SI problems can cause Gluteus Maximus dysfunction. Both must be addressed for success treatment and resolution and low back pain.
Sedentary behavior, characterized by excessive periods of sitting and physical inactivity, has emerged as a significant contributor to Gluteus Maximus dysfunction. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles often involve extended sitting habits, which can lead to weakening of the Glute Max and precipitate muscle imbalances, subsequently increasing the risk of back pain and injury.
2. Muscle Imbalances and Postural Misalignments
Imbalances within our musculature, resulting from sedentary behavior, sports specificity, or incorrect training, can lead to Gluteus Maximus dysfunction. Similarly, postural misalignments such as anterior pelvic tilt (your trunk leans forward) or swayback posture (your trunk leans backward) can exert undue strain on the Glute Max, potentially triggering dysfunction.
Overuse, often resulting from repetitive movements like excessive running or jumping, can overstrain the Glute Max, leading to muscle fatigue and dysfunction. Direct trauma or an injury to the muscle, caused by falls or impacts, can also result in damage and impede the Glute Max's function.
During a treatment session, Dr. Phelts judiciously examines the SI joint and supporting muscles, including the Gluteus Maximus. On identifying any dysfunction weakness, hje employs applied kinesiology treatment techniques that effectively activate the muscle and enhance its function.
One such technique is a muscle treatment called origin-insertion technique. Muscles play host to a specific type of proprioceptors known as Golgi Tendon Organs (GTOs). These are strategically positioned at the conjunctions of muscles and tendons, tasked with closely monitoring the tension dynamics within our muscles.
In instances of excessive load, the GTOs leap into action to safeguard our muscles and joints. They effectively deactivate contracting muscle fibers, acting as a braking system to inhibit potential injury of the muscle or joint.
When the load lifted off of the muscle and the threat of injury is absent, typically the GTOs reactivate the muscles fibers. However, there are occasions when this doesn't occur. In such scenarios, and despite some muscle fibers being shut off, the muscle continues to operate. However, its functionality is now diminished, operating at sub-optimal levels.
Origin-Insertion technique restores normal function to the GTOs, so that the muscle fibers are reactivated and optimal gluteus maximus function is restored.
EMsculpt NeoAlso, is a FDA approved muscle building and strengthening machine. It enhances muscle size by 25% on average and is approved for use on the gluteus maximus, abdomen, and thigh muscles- all of which are essential for low back stability. It uses HIFEM® (high-intensity focused electromagnetic technology) and RF (radiofrequency) to build muscle and or burn fat.
Once normal function of the gluteus maximus is restored, strengthening and activation exercises, such as squats, lunges, and hip thrusts, can help fortify the Glute Max. Additionally, addressing muscle imbalances, improving posture, and integrating regular movement into our daily lives can substantially diminish the risk of Glute Max dysfunction.