What Is a Gluteus Tear?

A gluteus tear occurs when one of the tendons that holds your gluteal muscles and bones together partially or completely tears.

Your gluteal muscles start at your buttocks and wrap around to the side of your hip. You have three gluteal muscles, which are:

  • gluteus medius,
  • gluteus minimus, and
  • gluteus maximus.

Gluteal tendon tears can affect anyone. But they’re most common in females ages 40 to 70. It’s extremely rare for someone under 40 to have a gluteal tear.

Types of Gluteus Tears

There are two main types of gluteus tears:

  • gluteus medius tear, which affects the gluteal muscle in your outer hip and
  • gluteus minimus tear, which affects the muscle directly beneath the gluteus medius on the outside of your hip.

You may have a tear only in the tendons of one gluteal tendon or in both. A gluteus maximus tear is also possible but not common.

Gluteal Tear Symptoms

The most common symptom is pain concentrated at the side of your hip. It may hurt more after you sit for long periods or after you exercise. Usually, the pain increases with direct pressure on the side of your hip, such as lying down on that side.

Another common symptom of a gluteal tear is dropping your pelvis to one side when you walk. You may drop your pelvis toward the hip that doesn’t hurt to try to take weight off your injured hip.

You may also have:

  • decreased range of motion,
  • swelling, or
  • weakness.

Gluteal Tears vs. Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome

Gluteal tears can sometimes have similar symptoms as greater trochanteric pain syndrome (GTPS). GTPS also causes pain in the side of your hip but isn’t a gluteal tendon tear.

GTPS is much more common in younger people, runners, bikers, and other recreational athletes. Most active people younger than 40 who have outer hip pain are more likely to have GTPS than a gluteal tear.

Why Choose University of Utah Health?

At U of U Health, our specialists in the Hip Preservation Program are among the most experienced in the country. Our team is the only one in the Mountain West region specializing exclusively in hip injuries. We have the most extensive orthopedic team in our region, including physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons, and other subspecialists. Because we are part of an academic center, we have additional layers of subspecialists who can coordinate on your care plan as needed.

We also have a dedicated radiology team that includes fellowship-trained experts in musculoskeletal injuries. This team has developed unique imaging views, now used regionally and nationally, that reduce radiation and improve the view of your hip. Our team is one of the only specialized groups in the region with these highly trained clinicians, meaning you get the proper diagnosis right away.

Our orthopedic specialists develop new clinical treatments, publish papers, participate in clinical trials, and teach residents and fellows in the latest treatments. This means we can offer eligible patients treatments that may not be available elsewhere.

When to See a Hip Specialist

See a hip specialist right away if your hip pain interferes with your everyday activities or doesn’t get better after four to six weeks. We recommend seeking treatment within two to four weeks if you had a single injury such as a fall that started the pain. The sooner you begin treatment, the higher your chances for an optimal outcome.

Find a Hip Specialist

Diagnosing Gluteal Tears

Your hip specialist will ask you about your symptoms to diagnose a gluteal tear. They will conduct a physical examination of your hip, including moving your leg, gently touching the regions that hurt to identify the location of the pain, and other specialized exam tests. For example, you may lie on your left side and try to lift your right leg toward the ceiling. This exercise isolates your gluteal muscles, which will help your provider determine if you have a tear.

Your hip specialist may apply a numbing medicine with or without a steroid near the injured area to see if your pain diminishes. When numbing medicine makes the pain go away on the side of your hip, it could point to a gluteal tear.

Your hip specialist may also use imaging scans or tests to get a better picture of the inside of your body, such as an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Gluteal Tear Causes

Most people who have a gluteal tear can identify an incident that started the pain, such as a fall or other injury. Some people with gluteal tears have a history of hip pain that comes and goes. They may have also had a history of hip pain combined with an injury that worsens pain.

Gluteus Tear Treatment

Fortunately, your hip specialist will typically treat the majority of gluteal tears without surgery. For nonsurgical treatment to be effective, you’ll have to follow the plan your specialist prescribes, such as:

  • activity modifications,
  • over-the-counter pain relievers, and/or
  • physical therapy.

Repair for Torn Gluteus

Your hip specialist may discuss surgery with you if you’ve tried nonsurgical treatment for at least three months without improvement. There are two procedures to repair a torn gluteal tendon:

  • tendon repair (reattaching the torn tendon to your bone) and
  • tendon reconstruction (using tissue grafts from other parts of your body or a donor to rebuild the tendon).

How to Prepare for Gluteal Repair

You’ll need to stop eating and drinking by midnight the night before gluteal tendon surgery. Most people don’t need additional preparation, but your surgeon will give you instructions based on your individual risk factors.

During Surgery

During surgery, your surgeon will:

  • make multiple small incisions or a single larger incision on the side of your hip, depending on the size of your tear.
  • reattach or rebuild the torn tendon.
  • remove painful scar tissue.

The entire surgery takes between one to two hours. You will return home the same day.

Recovery

You’ll use crutches for about four to six weeks after surgery. You typically don’t need to wear a brace after your surgery.

Most people can walk and move comfortably after about four to six weeks. You may bike or swim during this time. You’ll need to stop jogging, running, or jumping for around three months or until your surgeon clears you for full activity.

About two to three weeks after surgery, you’ll start physical therapy to strengthen your gluteal muscles and increase your range of motion. Your sessions will continue until about three months after surgery.

How Long Does It Take for a Gluteal Muscle to Heal?

Most people start seeing a significant improvement in their symptoms within three months after starting treatment or having surgery. But for some, full gluteus tendon tear recovery may take longer, lasting as long as one to two years. Full recovery often depends on how long you have had your injury. 

Gluteus Tear Surgery Success Rate

Gluteus medius and minimus tear surgeries have excellent success rates. More than 90 percent of patients experience significantly decreased pain and improved daily function after surgery.

How Can I Prevent a Gluteal Tendon Tear?

To prevent a gluteal tendon tear, you can practice exercises to strengthen your gluteus muscles.

You may also use a foam roller to reduce tension and inflammation in the tissue on the side of your hip (iliotibial [IT] band). Foam rolling applies gentle pressure to your connective tissues to help reduce pain, relax your muscles, and increase circulation.

Schedule an Appointment with Our Hip Specialists

Gluteal tears can worsen without treatment. Schedule an appointment today to start your path to a life free of hip pain. Call 801-587-7109 to request an appointment with our orthopedic team.

To refer a patient to our Hip Preservation Program, please complete our physician referral form or call 1-866-850-8863 to speak with a physician referral specialist. 

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