Dead butt syndrome. Sounds pretty scary, doesn’t it?
So you might be wondering if it even really exists. I mean, can your butt actually become dead?
Unfortunately, YES – dead butt syndrome, also known as Gluteal Amnesia, is a real condition — and YOU might be suffering from it without even realizing it.
What is dead butt syndrome, and what causes it?
Basically, “dead butt syndrome” or Gluteal Amnesia – one of the most common forms of Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA), means that your glutes have forgotten how to work properly because they’ve been inactive for a long period of time.
SMA causes sufferers to lose their ability to release and relax muscles and to move freely. This is because it occurs on a nervous system level.
In SMA, the brain-to-muscles feedback loop goes into what can be described as “autopilot,” making it difficult to control the affected muscles freely.
While this surprisingly common condition usually doesn’t cause any pain (unlike that real pain in the butt – Sciatica), other muscles and areas of your body might stop working efficiently if dead butt syndrome is left untreated — meaning you could experience pain and additional uncomfortable symptoms in other areas of your body.
So what causes dead butt syndrome specifically?
It is usually a result of sitting all day (e.g. at a desk, in a car, on an airplane) without a lot of movement – dead butt syndrome occurs gradually over a period of time.
To be more specific, sitting for long periods of time can cause your hip flexors to become tight and your glutes to rest too much. This can cause your hip flexors to become shorter, which in turn causes your butt muscles to not work as efficiently, and causes your glutes to lengthen.
This process is referred to as ‘reciprocal inhibition’. When tightness in a muscle causes the muscle on the opposite side of the joint to lengthen, and if this process goes on for too long, your glutes become inactive – thus, dead butt syndrome!
If left untreated, other muscles in your body can be affected because of the added stress being placed on them due to having to pick up the slack, literally. Reciprocal inhibition can actually occur in any opposing muscle group in your body, not just your glutes and hips.
It is conceivable for you to go through an entire day without stimulating your glutes – many people have poor posture when they are sitting, and this can affect how your glutes function.
Hip flexors can also become tight as a result of certain types of exercise, such as running or cycling.
Do YOU have the dreaded dead butt syndrome?
There really aren’t many symptoms, so you might be wondering if you actually do have this condition? But, how can you make a determination?
Here are a few things you can do to test for it:
CHECK YOUR BELTLINE
- Your belt line can indicate if you suffer from dead butt syndrome.
- Stand in a neutral position and envision you’re wearing a belt.
- Is your belt line parallel to the floor or is it dropping towards the front?
- If your belt line is parallel to the floor, your glutes are working as they should.
- However, if your belt line is dropping towards the front, this indicates you have an anterior pelvic tilt, meaning you aren’t contracting your glutes properly – a sign of glutes with amnesia!
PERFORM THE TRENDELENBURG TEST
- Standing in front of a mirror, lift one of your legs in front of you above your heart.
- If your pelvis drops down on the side of the body where your leg is lifted, this suggests that there is weakness in your glutes on the opposite side of your body.
SQUEEZE YOUR GLUTES
- Lie down face up on a firm surface, then place your hands underneath your butt.
- Try to squeeze your butt cheeks one side at a time.
- Did you feel your glutes engage? If so, your glutes are behaving properly.
PAIN IN YOUR HAMSTRINGS
- Do you feel pain in your hamstrings when working out with dumbbells, such as doing step-ups or deadlifts?
- If so, then this indicates your hamstrings are doing the work instead of your glutes, the reason being is that your glutes aren’t performing properly.
How do you “revive” a dead butt?
Releasing muscle pain for the long term is actually an educational process. Because SMA is a learned, functional problem, it can thankfully be “unlearned”.
This is because the command centre (aka, your brain) taught your muscles to remain tight and contracted, therefore the brain must be involved in retraining the muscle to release and relax again.
Reversing dead butt syndrome is possible but it will take some work on your part, and it will take time. Getting rid of any type of SMA can be a slow process and will not happen overnight.
In the case of dead butt syndrome, you will need to work those glutes several times a week because you need to retrain your butt muscles to work properly.
- If you have a job that involves a lot of sitting, take a break every once in a while, and walk around to get those glutes moving.
- When driving your car, focus on using the heels of your feet, not the ball of your feet. This helps stimulate your gluteus maximus (in other words, your glutes).
- Exercises using a foam roller and a large stability ball, and that involve your hip flexors and glutes, can also be helpful.
- Lower-body exercises that focus on your butt (such as squats and lunges) should be a regular part of your workout routine, and the more you squeeze your glutes while performing them, the more effective the exercises will be.
Here is one exercise to try: Stand up straight and tall, tuck in your tailbone, flex your glutes as hard as you can for five seconds, then release – repeat this ten times.
Reversing SMA (and dead butt syndrome) addresses chronic muscle pain at its root cause – the brain – and the way in which the brain senses and controls movement.
Improved muscle function and body awareness translates into optimized health, the ability to bounce back from stress, and maintenance of physical independence (and mobility) as we age. This is everything!
Think you’ve got Dead Butt Syndrome – or perhaps another type of Sensory Motor Amnesia?
Don’t worry! I’ve got you – and your butt covered.
Let’s work together to pinpoint the root cause and get you on the pain-free path back to better health.
My upcoming STRETCH, ROLL & RELEASE WORKSHOP would be a good start too!