The gluteus maximus muscle is the largest muscle of the gluteal group that makes up the buttocks. The function of the muscle is to extend the thigh, or pull the thigh in a straight line with the body trunk, providing power during actions like standing up, walking or running uphill and climbing stairs. The gluteus maximus muscle also has a function of helping to keep the body in an upright posture.
Gluteus maximus injuries are fairly uncommon, but they can happen, especially in athletes. Runners, weight lifters and people who play sports such as football, rugby, soccer and basketball can be prone to gluteus maximus muscle injuries.
The most common type of injury causing gluteus maximus muscle pain is a strain or tear of the gluteus maximus. Muscle strains are described by severity; a grade 1 muscle strain can cause some pain but does not really affect the function of the muscle, a grade 2 strain results in more severe pain and some degree of loss of function and a grade 3 strain is a total tear of all of the fibers of a muscle. The most common type of gluteus maximus strain seen in athletes is a grade 2 strain.
The pain from a gluteus maximus strain is typically felt as a sharp pain when doing an activity that requires the use of the muscle, for example, going up stairs or walking uphill. Some strains can cause pain when a patient is resting as well, but the pain typically worsens with activity. In some cases, some swelling, bruising and tenderness of the area may be observed as well.
One other potential cause of gluteus maximus pain is actually a problem with a nerve in the area rather than the muscle itself. Sciatica is a condition where there is damage to the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower part of the spine down each leg. Sometimes, the pain from sciatica affects the gluteal region. Depending on the case, sciatica may be felt as numbness, tingling or pain. Burning or dull pain is more common with sciatic nerve damage, but sharp pain in the buttocks and leg is sometimes reported. Sciatica is usually felt on one side only. Sciatica can be caused by a variety of conditions, including slipped discs in the back or injuries to the area.