Updated: Feb 13, 2021
There are many different causes of low back pain. Today, we're going to talk about a lesser known, sneaky culprit that can contribute to low back pain for many. It is called "Gluteal Amnesia". It sounds weird, but it is more common than you might think.
Gluteal Amnesia can cause nagging, low back pain that never seems to go away. Even if your glutes aren't in full on Gluteal Amnesia stage, having weak glutes can cause significant pain in the lumbar region of the spine. In this article, we're going to talk about how to test for weak glutes and correct the issue.
What is Gluteal Amnesia?
Gluteal Amnesia , also known as "Dead Butt Syndrome", or Gluteus Medius Tendinopathy is a condition in which the butt muscles, primarily, the Gluteus Medius, "forget" how to properly activate.
The brain can diminish the neural drive to weakened glutes over time, inhibiting the glutes from firing optimally. Eventually, this causes pain in the lumbar region of the back.
There are a small handful of people out there who dispute that "Gluteal Amnesia" is actually a condition. The studies I have come across don't totally disprove it, and it really is just splitting hairs, because weak or unbalanced glutes, without a doubt, absolutely impacts the health of the lower back negatively.
How Does This Cause Low Back Pain?
When the glutes are in a weakened state, they become loose and lengthened. In this condition, the Gluteus Medius, cannot properly perform its function of stabilizing the pelvis. The pelvis will fall into a forward tilt position, which further accentuates the curve in the lower back.
Low back pain is usually felt at this point. The pain will come and go, originating across the gluteal area. The pain can wrap around from the glute, to the front of the hip, as well as the lateral aspect of the thigh. The pain can also work its way into the SI Joint area, as well.
Left unaddressed, Gluteal Amnesia can lead to knee and ankle problems, including, disk herniation,, iliotibial band syndrome, patella-femoral (knee) syndrome, and piriformis syndrome. No Bueno. The good news is, it can be fixed!
Causes & Fixes
Cause 1- Long periods of sitting is arguably the most common cause of Gluteal Amnesia. When we sit for too long, blood flow can become restricted, and the Gluteus Medius can become inflamed. Sitting for too long trains our glutes to become weakened. In addition, excessive compression of your glutes against a chair can cause them to lose their elasticity, and thus the ability to contract properly is greatly diminished.
We know that heart disease, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer have been linked with sitting for prolonged amounts of time. Now, we can add low back pain, due to weak glutes to that list of health implications.
The fix- Get up and move around for at least 10 minutes for every 1 hour of sitting.
Consider taking your walking shoes to work and getting a quick walk in on your lunch hour.
Break out the exercise mat and crank out 3 sets of glute bridges. Aim for 8 reps, and increase gradually. As your glutes become strong, you can add a little weight into your glute bridge, such as a weight plate, or even your little one.
Make sure to end the exercise session with a nice hip flexor stretch.
Cause 2- Muscular imbalances can play a big role in the development of Gluteal Amnesia. Highly active people, who simply don't engage their glutes enough, can develop this condition.
If you regularly perform a sport or exercise program that is heavy on the hip flexors, quads, and hamstrings, but fail to train your booty regularly, muscular imbalances will result than can lead to Gluteal Amnesia. Cycle much? Kickbox much? Run much? With these types of exercises, it is essential to add regular glute work and hip flexor stretches into your workout rotation to keep the body balanced and prevent injury.
The body is an amazing machine, and both sides need to stay balanced to perform optimally. When one muscle contracts, the opposite muscle relaxes. If we don't train opposing muscle groups, we end up with muscular imbalances that contribute to potentially painful conditions. We wouldn't train only our biceps, without training our triceps too, right? The same principal should be applied to the glutes.
1. Squats, Lying Down Leg Lifts, and Glute bridges are your new best friend! Shoot for 3 sets of 10 reps each. Build up as you can. Again, as your glutes become stronger, you can add a weight plate over your hips during glute bridge exercises.
2. Give booty band workouts a try. You've seen the infomercials and you know you've wanted to try them, right? The time is now! Actually, they're available on Amazon. I'll post an affiliate link for the kind of booty bands I ordered and use. They are awesome.
*The above link is an Amazon Affiliate link. While it costs you nothing at all to shop through an affiliate link, it allows us to continue to bring you awesome content
Cause 3- Tight Hip Flexors- This falls into the muscular imbalance category as well. In addition to training your glutes to become stronger, you must also give the hip flexors a good stretch. Tight hip flexors alone, can greatly contribute to the development of Gluteal Amnesia.
The Fix- One of the best exercises to target the hip flexors is the runners lung. Stretching should be done only when the muscles have been warmed up through activity. Keep that in mind. If you can't hold yourself upright very well, the runners stretch can be done in a kneeling position on the floor. Find the modification that fits your specific needs.
In addition to stretching your hip flexors, consider using a foam roller to give your tight quads a good release after your workouts:
*The above link is an Amazon Affiliate link. While it costs you nothing at all to shop through an affiliate link, it allows us to continue to bring you awesome content.*
How do I tell if I have Weak Butt or Gluteal Amnesia?
There are several methods of testing, that are really quite simple. My favorite is the single leg glute bridge. Do this on each side. If you feel like your lower back is doing the bulk of the work on one side instead of the glute, odds are, that is not functioning at optimal capacity. This link is an excellent video that will help you identify if your glutes are indeed weak.
I hope this article helps some of you, dear readers, identify and address imbalance issues so that you can live your best, pain free life :)