Photo: Dmytro Zinkevych (Shutterstock)
Over the past year, as more people work from home, physical therapists have seen an increase in patients with Dead Butt Syndrome, or DBS for short, which means pain, numbness, and tingling in the buttocks that can often occur on the lower back and stretch your legs. If you’ve ever got up after sitting for a long time and felt a tingling sensation and numbness in your bum, DBS feels a bit like this, only for some people it progresses to the point where it severely affects their quality of life.
“Once these symptoms last more than an hour or two and you really notice that they affect you during the day, […] then that would be something I would recommend another medical exam for, ”said Dr. Tyler Detmer, Physiotherapist at Washington University in St. Louis.
Is Dead Butt Syndrome a Real Medical Diagnosis?
DBS is usually attributed to weak gluteal muscles, but as Detmer explains, the condition is not a formal medical diagnosis, but rather an umbrella term for a variety of problems that can cause these symptoms. Similar to how sciatica refers to pain along the sciatic nerve, the cause of which can be different, DBS stands for a collection of symptoms – in this case tingling, numbness and pain in the back, buttocks and legs with different causes.
You will sometimes see dead butt syndrome known as “gluteal amnesia” where the cause is that the gluteal muscles have forgotten to shoot. However, this is a misunderstanding. “Our glutes don’t just forget their work,” says Detmer.
Instead, the causes of weakened gluteal muscles can be complex, such as decreased performance due to restricted blood flow, compression of the sciatic nerve, or general muscle stiffness. If you have restricted blood flow, your muscles may not get the oxygen or nutrients they need to function optimally. or, if the sciatic nerve becomes pinched, the nerves don’t fire quite as well, which can cause numbness and tingling. “You can imagine it as if a garden hose were kinked,” says Detmer.
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How works Dead Butt Syndrome develop?
In addition to the surrounding muscles that support and improve these movements, our glutes are responsible for moving our hips and stabilizing our pelvis. This includes the hip flexors, which contract when the glutes relax and vice versa, which allows for opposite movements. Bad posture, for example slumped over your laptop all day, can also be a factor in the development of DBS.
The good news is that even if you have DBS, “we tend to build in duplicate patterns to compensate for any problems that may arise,” said Detmer. Our body is adaptable. You just can’t quite handle the stress of zoom meeting after zoom meeting without regularly stretching or moving.
How to Avoid Dead Butt Syndrome
The majority of people who develop DBS do so because they sit all day. Since our working conditions have changed in the last year, Detmer has seen many more people with DBS and other ergonomic problems such as neck and sciatic pain in his clinic.
Detmer’s biggest recommendation for DBS prevention is that you get regular exercise during the day and get up from your desk at least every 30 minutes to an hour. This movement improves your blood circulation and prevents your muscles from becoming too stiff. He also recommends adding in a few stretches and exercises like a few squats, some leg marches, or toe touches.
In addition to moving regularly throughout the day, it is also very important to set up your office so that you can work without a hassle like DBS. This means that you don’t have to work on your laptop all day while sitting on the couch. “I would recommend trying to replicate the office environment as closely as possible when you work at home,” said Detmer.