Gluteal Amnesia

“Sitting is the new smoking!”  This is the phrase going around the health care industry as there is greater focus on being more active, especially as we age.  There has been a lot of research taking place that shows the negative side effects that prolonged sitting has on our entire body.  This includes things like reduced lung capacity, decreased cardiac output and efficiency… we could go on and on.  Along with more time spent sitting comes what we call “gluteal amnesia”, which is when our glutes forget what their purpose is.  And no, their purpose isn’t just to provide us with a nice cushion to sit on!   The glutes are our powerhouse for so many daily activities and movements, so we need to make sure we are keeping them strong.

What do the glute muscles do?

We all know where our glutes are… they make up your butt/behind/rear end/bum/tush/rump/fanny.  Whatever you want to call it, it is supposed to function the same in every person. Our “glutes” are made up of three incredibly strong muscles- the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus.  These muscles help keep us upright when we stand and walk, get up from sitting, and work a lot   when we bend over or squat down.  Typically, as people age, muscle mass decreases and it decreases most in the muscles we use the least.  So, if you’re like most people here in Wisconsin and spend more time sitting over the colder months, you will find that your glutes are going to keep getting weaker and weaker over time.

What happens to our glutes when we sit?

When we sit for a long period of time, not only are we not using those muscles, but we are reducing their blood flow and compressing the nerves that go between the many layers. This can lead to numbness as well as sciatic pain down the back of the leg.  Once you get up and try to move now other muscles start taking over to compensate because the glutes aren’t working like they should.  This is how the vicious pain and weakness cycle perpetuates.


Our glutes get weaker with prolonged sitting and when we get back to being active, our low back and/or hip muscles start to take over, placing them at risk of being injured or overworked/painful.  Once that low back pain kicks in, we go back to sitting because it feels better, and thus continues the cycle.

How do I know if I have gluteal amnesia?

We consistently find that people with chronic knee, hip or back pain have glute weakness.  Those trips to the doctor for pain medication and injections in your knees and spine don’t work because they aren’t addressing the root cause of the pain which is weakened glutes and overuse of other muscles.  Strengthening your glutes can be tricky, especially if you are in pain, so we want you to let us help you.  We can assess your strength, talk about where your pain is, and together we’ll come up with a plan to help reduce pain and improve your strength, so you aren’t stuck on the sofa all summer long.

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