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What To Do When The Diagnosis Is...Dead Butt Syndrome

Update Date: Jun 09, 2017 06:40 PM EDT

Sitting for long periods of time without moving is obviously a bad idea. Research has linked the couch potato life to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even cancer. Now, researchers have found yet another reason for you to get up and get moving. Brace yourselves: "Dead Butt Syndrome" -- wonderfully known in formal medical cricles as gluteal amnesia -- is actually a serious health risk.

According to Andrew Bang, a chiropractor at the Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute, this diagnoses may seem like a joke, but is quite common.

"I see the injury all the time in varying degrees," Bang said.

Dead butt syndrome forms when the gluteus medius - a major muscle located in the lower region of the body - stops firing correctly. This can happen if you spend too much time sitting around, explained Kristen Schuyten, a physical therapist at Michigan Medicine. "But, it can also occur in very active individuals who just don't engage the glute muscles enough," she said.

Gluteal amnesia can cause hip pain and lower back pain, in addition to ankle and knee issues.

Dead butt syndrome has a lot to do with the give-and-take relationship between your muscles and your joints (reciprocal inhibition). "In general, when one muscle contracts, a nerve signal is sent to its opposing muscle to relax," Bang said.

The Signs and Symptoms of Gluteal Amnesia

One way practitioners diagnose dead butt syndrome is with the Trendelenburg test, a physical exam where the patient is asked to lift one leg in front of themselves while standing. "If the pelvis dips down on the side of the body where the leg is lifted, that indicates weakness in the gluteus medius on the opposite side," Bang said.

The curve of a person's back can also clue you in to whether you have gluteal amnesia. While your lower back should naturally form an S shape, more extreme curvature is a sign that the hip flexors are so tight that they're pulling the spine forward, Bang said.

Avoid Dead Butt Syndrome

Bang recommends mixing up your daily routine is the best way to avoid gluteal amnesia. "Whatever you do, just don't allow your body to get into a repetitive cycle," he said.

Some quick ways to do this include sitting on an exercise ball instead of in an office chair and spending an hour or so working at a high countertop or working while standing up.

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