There are three Gluteal muscles: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus.
Gluteus Minimus is the smallest of the three and it works predominantly together with Gluteus Medius to stabilise, abduct (bring it out to the side) and internally rotate (turn it inwards) the hip.
Gluteus Minimus is active through lots of movements where hip stability is required
Running and walking- it works with gluteus medius to keep you hips level when your weight is on one foot .
Jumping and landing- they can help to stabilise your knee when landing
Changing direction- the lateral hip stabilisers can control how force is distributed down your leg and in what direction
Therefore it is used frequently and as a result, it can sustain either acute tears from activity or develop tears from simply having load that it is unaccustomed to over time
Why is Gluteus Minimus important?
A Bursa sits between the tendon of Gluteus Minimus and the Greater Trochanter meaning that any tears in the muscle fibres can alter the load being transferred through the tendon, ultimately causing a tendinopathy. Inflammation processes in the tendon can cause irritation of the bursa resulting in bursitis.
Tears in the tendon itself are especially important to identify given the gluteus minimus’s role in stabilising the hip.
If the tendon can't function properly the muscle may not be able to stabilise the hip and may lead to falls or an altered gait pattern commonly known as a Trendelenburg gait.
The question is: do I need to see a physio for my gluteus minimus tear? Will it heal on its own?
Well… ultimately yes.
Muscle tears can vary considerably in size, degree, location and composition. Just because a tear is small or of a low grade, doesn't necessarily mean it will heal well.
It might be in a tricky position, there may be a lot of bleeding (or a little) and tendon tears behave differently to simple muscle tears.
Likewise, large or high grade tears can often heal in a good timeframe with minimal recurrence if they are rehabbed well.
Good rehabilitation of a tear will include targeting the anterior and posterior fibres (because they both have different functions!) and then integrating that into the whole hip complex and then integrating that into your functional activities.
If you are a runner, a good rehab program will focus on strengthening the components of the hip throughout your running stride and then being able to add different load characteristics such as speed, distance, intensity without symptoms.
Simple low grade tears can heal within 2-3 weeks whereas tendon tears can take as long as 8-10 weeks.
A health professional can guide you through this process whilst maintaining or modifying activities to ensure that you can still participate whilst ensuring you heal as well.