Glute dysfunction: Can strengthening your glutes possibly relieve back and knee pain?

glute dysfunction low back pain

Do you ever experience non-specific low back or knee pain/ discomfort?  The answer may be found in your butt or more specifically your glute muscles and glute dysfunction.  That’s right, the muscles that we sit on for most of our day may hold the key to alleviating your pain.  Let’s explore how getting your glutes working and building strength in them can help to relieve your discomfort.

Understanding glute dysfunction

What is glute dysfunction?  Well, it’s when your glutes are not working properly.  Our glutes are made up of three muscles, glute maximus, medius and minimus.  They are vital in stabilising our pelvis and helping us move properly.  When they’re not working or weak properly, your whole-body mechanics can be impacted.

What Causes Glute Dysfunction?

Glute dysfunction can result from a sedentary lifestyle, muscle imbalances, poor posture, weak core muscles, injury, overuse, or age-related changes. Prolonged sitting weakens the glutes, while imbalances with other muscles disrupt proper movement. Poor posture inhibits glute activation, and weak core muscles affect pelvic stability. Previous injuries or trauma can impair glute function, as can overuse or misuse during activities. Age-related muscle decline exacerbates dysfunction. Targeted exercises, proper form, and lifestyle changes can address these factors, improving glute function and alleviating associated pain.

Link to low back pain!

Low back pain often seems to be connected to weak glutes.  Research performed by V. M. Distefano et al. (2009), has shown that glute dysfunction can lead to poor hip stability causing the back to overcompensate, leading to pain and discomfort.

How does it impact knee pain?

But our knees aren’t anywhere close to our glute, I hear you say.  Research by Earl G. Inman et al. (1990) found that weak glute medius muscles contribute to knee instability in movements such as walking and squatting, putting extra stress on the knee joint and potentially contributing to pain.

Glute dysfunction may cause the body to compensate by relying on other muscles such as our hamstrings to perform movements.  In turn, this causes greater stress and strain on our hamstrings.  Over time, this increased demand on the hamstrings without adequate support from the glutes can lead to fatigue, tightness, and increased risk of injury.

The solution: Strengthen the glutes

Part of the solution lies in strengthening our glutes.  So how is that done?  Well, a movement you perform multiple times daily is a great exercise to help, the squat ie sitting.  How do perform a squat?

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Keep your chest up, shoulders back, and core engaged.
  • Slowly lower your body by bending your knees and pushing your hips back as if you’re sitting into a chair. Keep your weight on your heels and your knees tracking over your toes.
  • Lower down until your thighs are parallel to the ground or as far as comfortable while maintaining proper form. Keep your chest up and avoid rounding your back.
  • Press through your heels to return to the starting position, squeezing your glutes at the top. Keep your core engaged throughout the movement.
  • Aim for 10-15 repetitions, gradually increasing as you get stronger.

Putting into practice

Incorporate glute strengthening exercises like the squat into your daily routine.  Sit into a chair if that increases your confidence in performing squats.  Focus on good technique, making sure you can feel your glutes working.  Increase resistance and harder glute exercises as your strength improves.  As always, be consistent!

When next dealing with low back or knee pain, remember your glutes.  Tackling glute dysfunction may help give some relief and improve your movement mechanics.  Build strength and function in your glutes and possibly farewell pain for good!

If you are unsure where to start or what to do, schedule an appointment today and start your journey towards improved mobility and well-being.


  • Distefano, V. M., et al. “Gluteus Medius: An Intramuscular Electromyographic Study.” Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, vol. 19, no. 6, 2009, pp. 930–936.
  • Inman, E. G., et al. “The Role of the Gluteus Medius in Medial Knee Collapse.” Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, vol. 12, no. 3, 1990, pp. 105–110.