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What is ‘Dead Butt’ Syndrome and How Do I Treat It?

You’re well aware that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t exactly great for your health, but did you know that sitting on your tush all day can lead to something called dead butt syndrome? And while the name is pretty funny (come on, try to say it out loud without snickering), the symptoms are anything but. That’s why we chatted to Jacque Crockford, a certified personal trainer from the American Council on Exercise, to get the facts. 

Wait, what exactly is Dead Butt Syndrome?

Also known as gluteal amnesia, dead butt syndrome is a condition in which the gluteal muscles don’t function correctly. “Over time, through inactivity, long-term sitting or performing exercises improperly, the glutes may become dormant causing other muscles in the legs and lower back to contract and work unnecessarily hard,” Crockford tells us. And as your body tries to compensate for this imbalance, it can lead to hip pain, lower back ache and problems with your ankles and knees. Yikes. 

How is it diagnosed? 

To determine if dead butt is an issue, our friends at Health tell us that practitioners often use the Trendelenburg test, a physical exam where you lift one leg while standing. If your pelvis dips on the side of the body where the leg is lifted, it’s an indication of gluteal muscle weakness on the opposite side. But if you suspect that you have gluteal amnesia, you should definitely see a professional who can correctly diagnose and treat it. “A certified fitness or medical practitioner will be able to determine a weakness in the posterior chain by performing a few movement screens,” says Crockford. 

So, What Can I Do To Treat Dead Butt Syndrome?

The good news is that dead butt syndrome is avoidable (and even reversible with the right exercises). To keep your butt muscles happy, make sure to take regular breaks from sitting throughout the day (set an alarm every hour to get up and walk around or stretch for at least a minute). You can also squeeze your butt muscles one side at a time while you’re sitting at your desk (you know, in a totally non-weird way). And hitting the gym can help, too. “Exercises like squats, dead lifts and kettlebell swings can help improve gluteal strength,” says Crockford. “But for more pointed activation of the glutes, specifically the external rotators, perform these exercises with a band around the thighs to promote contraction (squeezing the knees outward while doing the lift).” In other words: work your butt off, for your butt.

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