If you are like me, you have been sitting more than ever these last 6 months. Long hours of sitting have been cited to increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers and can actually lead to a condition called “dead butt syndrome.” No joke! It is also referred to as gluteal amnesia. Sitting all day basically causes your glutes to shut down and forget what they are supposed to do: powerful movement, stability, and proper body alignment. Humans weren’t designed to sit all day and when we do our butt muscles become weak and inactive leading to poor movement, pain in our joints and back, and balance instability.
Dead Butt Syndrome leads to pain and injury
Your gluteal muscles are the biggest and strongest muscle group in your body. They are composed of 3 muscles: the gluteus maximus, the largest and most powerful muscle, and the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. Although the medius and minimus are smaller muscles they are equally as important for hip movement and stability. In fact, having a weak glute medius is often the underlying cause of dead butt syndrome. Ideally, this muscle group works together to provide the foundation of your alignment, movement, and balance. Weakness in any one of these muscles can force other muscles to compensate, like the hamstrings, the quadriceps, or the hip flexors. This, in turn, can create muscle imbalances and lead to injury and/or pain in the back or joints of the lower legs. Some signs of weak or inactive gluteal muscles include tight hip flexors, sciatica, pain in the lower back, hip, knee, or even the ankle or the foot. Weak glutes can cause balance issues as well putting you at greater risk for falls and fractures.
Testing for Dead Butt Syndrome
One simple test you can do to check the strength of your gluteal muscles is called the Trendelenberg test. To do this test, stand in front of a mirror, feet hip-distance apart and hands placed evenly on your hips. Lift one foot off the ground so you are standing on one leg. Look to see if your hips shift or if one hip drops. Do your hands stay level? The more difficult it is for you to keep your hips level, the weaker your glutes.
Sign of Weak Gluteal Muscles
Sign of Adequate Gluteal Muscles
Overcoming Dead Butt Syndrome
The gluteal muscles were built for strength, power, and stability and need to be fed a regular diet of stair climbing, squatting, lunging, running and power walking to be kept in optimal condition. However, dead butt syndrome can make it difficult to automatically activate these muscles during exercise. So it is important to consciously think about activating the glutes when strengthening them. Think, see, and feel the muscle contracting to ensure it is being activated effectively. Once the muscles are “turned on” again, they will begin to automatically engage every time they are called upon.
A simple way to prevent a dead butt? Set a timer on your phone. Every hour, squeeze your butt 20 times, get up and walk around, go up and down a flight of stairs, or do some chair squats.
The bottom line is that prolonged sitting is bad for health in many ways, so get up and get your butt moving.
If you have joint pain, a recent injury, unstable balance, or don’t know how to get started, schedule a 30-minute exercise review with me so I can help put together a safe and effective exercise routine personalized for you.
The 30-minute exercise review includes:
- A comprehensive review of your current health and physical well-being
- Review, revision OR development of a fully customized home exercise program
is a Physical Therapist,
Nutrition Consultant and
Doctor of Integrative Medicine.
She has been treating women with osteoporosis for over 30 years and is dedicated to helping people achieve
lasting good health and vitality.
Want to learn more about how you can improve your bone health? Contact me for a free 15 minute phone consult to learn more about the BONES Method™ and how it can help you achieve strong, healthy bones for life!