You may be familiar with “dead butt syndrome” even if you’ve never heard the phrase.
It’s a catchy term that means your butt muscles don’t work properly if you sit too much. Physical therapists call it gluteus medius tendinopathy. It’s common among people who work desk jobs.
“Your hip flexors are constantly contracted and your glutes are constantly lengthened when you sit a lot,” said Tyson Droessler, a Marshfield Clinic physical therapist. “Your glutes become trained to not work like they should when they’re relaxed too much.”
Dead butt syndrome doesn’t only affect sedentary people. Working a desk job can prevent your glutes from working properly even if you exercise.
Pain is the main symptom
Most people don’t know their glutes are weak until they notice low back and hip pain.
“Pain happens because the weakened gluteus medius muscles can’t keep the pelvis in a stable position,” Droessler said.
Distance runners who spend most of the workday seated may have knee pain or heel pain. Weak glutes make your knees, ankles and feet work harder, which can cause pain and injuries.
Massage, dry needling, icing and moist heat can help ease pain. Stretching your hips and strengthening your glutes can stabilize your pelvis and prevent pain.
Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to make sure you’re doing the right exercises and not doing anything to cause more pain.
Act now to save your butt
If you spend a lot of time sitting but aren’t experiencing pain, you should act now to make sure pain doesn’t start.
Get a sit-to-stand desk,” Droessler said. “Spend 20 minutes standing every hour.”
If you can’t get a standing workstation, get up from your desk often. Drink a lot of water so you have to walk to a bathroom. Use a printer that’s far away from your desk. Stretch your hips if you don’t have a lot of space to walk around.
Do exercises at home or in the gym to strengthen your gluteus medius muscles. Cross-training is especially important if you’re a runner. Droessler suggested two exercises that are beneficial for your butt.
- Clamshells. Lie on your side with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet in line with your butt. Keep your feet together and raise your top knee as far as you can without rotating your hips or lifting your bottom knee off the floor. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement before lowering your knee. Repeat 10 times on each side.
- Lying hip abduction. Lie on your side with your legs straight and knees relaxed. With your toe angled toward the floor, raise your top leg to about 45 degrees. Repeat 10 times on each side.