We need to talk about “dead butt syndrome,” especially if you sit at a desk all day

People who sit for prolonged periods of time every day are bound to deal with some physical aches, like lower back pain, tight shoulders, and a weak core. If you’re stuck at a desk for eight hours a day, you might also contract something called “dead butt syndrome,” which sounds like some sort of practical joke, but it’s actually a very real condition known more formally as gluteal amnesia.

Gluteal amnesia—although it’s much more fun to refer to it as “dead butt syndrome“—is a condition in which your glutes no longer know how to activate since they’ve been inactive for so long.

Think about it this way: When you sit at a desk for a long period of time, your hip flexors get really tight, and they could even shorten. Your glutes are the opposing muscles to your hip flexors (much like your biceps and triceps), so when your hip flexors get tight, your glutes inadvertently lengthen. This is called reciprocal inhibition.

If the reciprocal inhibition happens over and over again, your butt muscles will essentially become desensitized, and they won’t be able to turn on when you want them to because the neurons that tell them to contract have been weakened. And that’s when “dead butt syndrome” begins.

Chris Kolba, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., physical therapist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told SELF that “dead butt syndrome” is a condition that could cause injury throughout the rest of your body if it’s left untreated.

"If the glute muscles are not working efficiently or to their max capacity, then other muscles or areas will be subject to more stress/work, eventually leading to symptoms," Dr. Kolba said.

That’s why it’s so important to keep an eye on your butt. You don’t want to deal with other injuries that happen as a result of gluteal amnesia.

If you feel like there is any numbness, stiffness, or cramping in your butt when you’re trying to exercise or go about your daily errands, you might have “dead butt syndrome,” but the good news is, gluteal amnesia is totally treatable.

Do more lower body exercises and stretches that are focused on your butt, and do them often, because you need to retrain your glutes to activate upon command. Of course, it helps to make sure you’re moving throughout the day. Get up, walk around, and don’t sit on that gorgeous butt of yours for too long!

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