The association between degenerative hip joint pathology and size of the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and piriformis muscles

Man Ther. 2009 Dec;14(6):605-10. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2009.07.004. Epub 2009 Aug 20.


This study aimed to investigate changes in the deep abductor muscles, gluteus medius (GMED), piriformis (PIRI), and gluteus minimus (GMIN), occurring in association with differing stages of unilateral degenerative hip joint pathology (mild: n=6, and advanced: n=6). Muscle volume assessed via magnetic resonance imaging was compared for each muscle between sides, and between groups (mild, advanced, control (n=12)). GMED and PIRI muscle volume was smaller around the affected hip in subjects with advanced pathology (p<0.01, p<0.05) while no significant asymmetry was present in the mild and control groups. GMIN showed a trend towards asymmetry in the advanced group (p=0.1) and the control group (p=0.076) which appears to have been associated with leg dominance. Between group differences revealed a significant difference for the GMED muscle reflecting larger muscle volumes on the affected side in subjects with mild pathology, compared to matched control hips. This information suggests that while GMED appears to atrophy in subjects with advanced hip joint pathology, it may be predisposed to hypertrophy in early stages of pathology. Assessment and exercise prescription methods should consider that the response of muscles of the abductor synergy to joint pathology is not homogenous between muscles or across stages of pathology.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Buttocks / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Hip Joint / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Joint Diseases / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / pathology
  • Osteoarthritis, Hip / pathology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Surveys and Questionnaires