Why You Should Avoid Dead Butt Syndrome

Of all the problems that could affect people who spend long hours in a sitting position, it is the funny (but quite common) name Dead Butt Syndrome (DBS), which can ultimately prove very painful and debilitating. DBS is also not exclusive to people who live more sedentary lives. It can also happen to active people who can’t use their glutes during exercise of any kind, but it’s more common among inactive people.

DBS is triggered when something called reciprocal inhibition fails – the term refers to the relationship between joints around a muscle. In general, when one muscle contracts, a nerve signal is sent to the opposite muscle to relax. When you spend countless hours in a sitting position, your hip flexors contract while your glutes rest. Over time, your glutes become weak. The same type of muscle imbalance can occur in very active people who have very strong quads or hamstrings,” says a health.com article titled Dead butt syndrome is another reason why you shouldn’t sit all day. Runners can develop DBS too, he adds.


The syndrome is also known as gluteal amnesia, as the gluteus medius muscle goes into a sort of hibernation when not trained. The resulting domino effect can range from lower back and hip pain to knee and ankle pain, as the body compensates for the imbalance of an important muscle that isn’t working as it should.

There are a couple of ways to check if you have DBS. The first is the Trendelenburg test which is used to diagnose hip dysfunctions. There are two types of tests: a standing test and a gait test. A titled document Trendelenburg signpublished by National Library of Medicinedefines the standing test as one in which the patient stands on the affected leg, or side where the weakness is, for up to 30 seconds.

The operator stands behind the patient at hip level and places his hands on the iliac crests on either side of the pelvis observing whether he remains level during the single leg position. Repeat the test on the opposite side. A positive Trendelenburg sign is when the pelvis drops to the unaffected side,” the paper says. The idea is to avoid this positive test.

Also interesting is the gait test, in which you have to walk a short distance under the observation of a physiotherapist. In a normal gait, the body shifts weight onto the stance leg, while also allowing the center of gravity to shift, which stabilizes the body. When [a patient] lifts the sound leg, the displacement does not occur; therefore, the patient is unable to maintain balance, leading to instability,” the paper adds.

Other ways to predict the possible onset of DBS is to check the curve of the spine. Your lower back should ideally form an S shape, and any extreme curvature should be seen as a sign of weak hips.

Let’s say there are signs of weak glutes, then what do you do? The main idea is to mix not only in the gym, but also at work. Stand up and work on a countertop, sit in different positions with conscious posture, and strengthen and lengthen your hips to keep them from falling asleep. When strengthening, don’t ignore the muscles around your hips: hamstrings, quads, adductors, calves and ITBs. When you do any bodyweight exercise or any lift for that matter, including something as simple as a bicep curl, check to see if your brain can activate your glutes.

Some basic exercises can help you with this. Physio Fitness has a video with three exercises that will help you with this, and they’re all so simple they can be done at home or anywhere, with the added challenge of a resistance band if needed.

Doing these exercises before your workout or throughout the day will ensure that your glutes are activated for the stress the body will experience. You may not be able to do lying exercises in the office, so Athlean-X has you covered with a video that has a standing and lying version for excellent glute work that will also strengthen your ITB and adductors.

Apart from these, working your hips in the gym and while running is vitally important. When you get up the next morning or get out of your office chair, remember to wake up your buttocks as well.

Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.

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