Dormant Butt Syndrome, DBS, is the result of long periods of inactivity that cause your butt to essentially forget its main purpose and cause you pain in other parts of your body, predominantly your back, hip, and knee.

DBS refers to weakness in your glute muscles and tightness in your hip flexors.  As with any other muscle group, when there is a weakness in one muscle other muscles try to pick up the slack.  The same happens when your glutes are weak.  Other muscles will pick up the slack and absorb the strain when you exercise causing back pain, hip pain, hamstring injuries, and knee pain which can lead to the use of pain medication, injections, or in some cases surgery.

Symptoms of DBS

The following symptoms are the most common for dormant butt syndrome.  You may experience some or all, depending on the severity.

  • Numbness or soreness in the gluteus maximus after a long period of sitting
  • Pain in both hips, lower back, or knees
  • Pain that shoots down the leg similar to sciatica
  • Inflammation of the hip bursa
  • Balance and gait problems as a result of pain
  • A change in your stride to ease pain

Causes of DBS

  • Sedentary Lifestyle: The old saying, if you don’t use it, you lose it, applies here.  The glutes have essentially forgotten how to provide your body the support it needs due to a lack of activity and engagement.  An inactive lifestyle, like sitting for too long or laying down for long periods of time, can cause your glute muscles to relax and lengthen and in turn this causes your hip flexors to tighten.

If you are active, are a runner, dancer, do pilates or crossfit and are still experiencing these symptoms, the cause may be:

  • Motor Control/Timing is Off:  Dormant butt syndrome can also be caused due to the glutes not firing when they’re supposed to.  So those that may do glute workouts in pilates, go for runs, and even dancers, may notice that their glutes are not firing, or engaging when they’re supposed to, because the motor control is off.  This is often due to a muscle imbalance, alignment being off, or a mechanical dysfunction.  Hip flexors and other muscles will tighten to overcompensate, adding to your pain.

Why are your hip flexors important?  Because these are the muscles responsible for moving your legs when you walk, run, swim, climb the stairs, dance… you name it, they’re doing it.  Hip flexors run from the front part your lumbar vertebrae or lower back and the pelvis to your femur/thigh bone.  So they are very important!  It’s safe to say, that with weak glute muscles, or dormant butt syndrome, your hip flexors are doubling their work and tightening.

Treatment for Dormant Butt Syndrome

The best way to prevent DBS is to activate your glutes.  Do this by breaking up your sitting time.  Take walks around your desk, stand up and stretch halfway and in between your favorite Netflix shows, and take the stairs.

If you notice that these simple changes are not decreasing your symptoms and you are still experiencing back, hip, and/or knee pain, reach out to me.

With physical therapy, we can determine first, if in fact you are experiencing pain due to dormant butt syndrome, or there is another underlying cause.  Through physical therapy, we can use a combination of manual techniques and corrective exercise to address mechanical dysfunction like a tight joint, nerve, or muscle that may be inhibiting the glutes and not allowing them to fire.  As well as using corrective exercises to address the motor control and timing of the glutes so they engage and provide support and get things firing on all cylinders.