Everyone should get glute work as part of their massage. Yes, your buttock muscles. This is a hugely important muscle group. We use these muscles every step we take and to leave them out during a massage makes no sense! You can think of these muscles as the connection between your upper and lower body. For this reason some may say your glutes are the most important part of your massage.
The gluteals are a group of muscles that sit on the posterior hip. They include gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. They have an action of extending the hip. This is taking the leg behind you. The gluteals are working all day, every day. Tight gluteals may be the cause of conditions such as low back pain, hips that feel stiff, hard to find comfortable sleeping positions, pain going down the back or side of the thigh and down to the ankle. Sore hips in later months of pregnancy may be relieved with massage in this area. Notice next time you’re walking if your toes point straight forward as you take each step. Many of us have one if not both feet where the toes point outward as we walk. This could be due to overly tight gluteals muscles.
Because the gluteals are a very dense muscle group there are certain ways to massage them. You may feel your massage therapist warming up the area with broad, full strokes. It doesn’t work to go into these dense muscles too quickly. They are strong and will reflexively tense to the point that no progress will be made. After the area is warmed up your massage therapist will use any variety of tools that will help them relax the deeper layers of this group. Fists, forearms, and elbows are my favorite. There are four layers of muscle here and the gluteus maximus is the first. Your therapist might find trigger points and help you with those along the way. After the maximus releases, your therapist can move to the gluteus medius and then gluteus minimus. You might even be able to get down to the deepest external rotators. The piriformis lies here. This little muscle is often the trouble maker for sciatica type pain.
Some people are mildly tender to extremely sore when first receiving massage work in these areas. Have your therapist go slow. Usually this hypersensitivity comes from trigger points that need to be released over time. Self massage with a tennis ball works wonders if you do it at home between your professional massage sessions. (see tennis ball article for technique)
You might be thinking “how is this area going to be massaged?” So let me explain what draping is. You will be professionally draped at all times. This means covered with a sheet so only the area being massaged is uncovered. Your glute massage may be done as an extension of your back work or leg work. Most commonly the glutes are massaged during the back of the leg. The leg is uncovered all the way to the top of the hip. It is best to take your underwear off to receive the greatest benefit. If you are more comfortable leaving underwear on, you can still benefit from work over the top of the sheet.
After receiving this massage your hips may feel freer, your legs swing easier, pain may be gone, or you may feel like your floating as you walk. You may come to love gluteal massage. It not only feels good but should be a necessity of every massage you get. If you go to get a massage somewhere and they ask you whether you want glutes included, say “yes!” and see what a difference it makes.
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