Updated: Feb 7, 2021
Lazy Butt Syndrome (or you could substitute the word 'Butt' with a different word starting with the letter 'A')...it's probably something associated with your teenage kids or maybe your spouse, right?
While that certainly may be true of some of your family members, I am actually talking about Lazy Butt Syndrome in the context of how your butt or gluteal muscles may not be working properly and consequently causing aches and pains in your lower back, hips, or legs.
Believe it or not, your glutes can become 'lazy' in that the muscles do not fire or contract in a timely or efficient manner to do the muscular work required of them during normal daily activities or strenuous activities at work or athletics. Chiropractors, physiotherapists and other manual medicine practitioners refer to this as Glute Inhibition.
As a result of gluteal inhibition, other muscles in your body will frequently have to take up the slack and work extra hard to make up for the deficiency. The glutes do a less than proportionate share of the work while the other muscles such as your low back and hamstrings perform an increased share. In simplistic terms, if you had 4 workers digging a 50 foot deep hole in the ground and one of those workers decides to go take a nap under the tree instead, then the remaining 3 workers have to take up the slack for the 25% work reduction by Mr. Sleepy Head. Over time, one or maybe all 3 of the other workers doing overtime could get injured from the increased strain. Solution: Wake up Mr. Sleepy Head and make him pick up his shovel!
I find that people with low back pain often have gluteal inhibition and will include tests during my physical examination to assess whether that is the case. I'd say it is pretty common...probably close to 70% of the time, the patient will have one or both glutes inhibited.
How does one develop Lazy Butt Syndrome?
The main cause of LBS is prolonged sitting. Many people sit at their jobs for 6-10 hours per day. Many people commute to work in their cars or GO Train for 1-2 additional hours per day. Many of these same people then do very little activity once they get home. Some of these people might do 1 hour of 'exercise' on most days of the week but it still may not be enough to counteract the effects of the cumulated hours of sitting on their butts.
Another cause of LBS is overuse through work or exercise without sufficient recovery. In this case, because the glutes are excessively tense due to activity, the brain will sense that they are over-stressed and at risk of injury and send nerve signals to turn the glutes off.
Thirdly, muscle imbalances in the hip and pelvic region can also cause glute deactivation. For example, people who have short and tight hip flexors often develop elongated glutes that are inhibited.
Finally, a traumatic fall on your back side will also trigger deactivation of your glutes. Also, folks who have suffered ankle sprains often exhibit glute inhibition.
Some patients often say to me that their glutes can't possibly be inhibited because they do alot of squats or lunges or deadlifts or run for distance 4-5x per week. It is possible to have 'strong' glutes that don't fire properly. In fact, it may be the excessive amount of exercise that caused the brain to turn them off. Muscle inhibition is different than muscle weakness. When a muscle is inhibited, the neurological firing of the muscle is disrupted causing it not to contract sufficiently or at the right time. In contrast, a weak muscle is firing normally, but is lacking in strength.
If you have any of the following issues, it may be due in large part to Lazy Butt Syndrome:
Low back pain
Anterior knee pain
Anterior hip pain
Poor alignment of the hips, knees or ankles
ACL sprains/tears, ankle instability, IT band pain
We can't help you with the Lazy Butt Syndrome that you see in your family members! But we can help with Lazy Butt Syndrome that may be causing your aches and pains.