One common factor in Low Back Pain (LBP) is under active glutes (or “sleeping booty” as I like to call it)! This post discusses the functional anatomy of the gluteal muscles, the relationship between LBP and under active glutes, and how Reset Sports Massage can help.
The buttocks are comprised of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. The muscles are primarily recruited to extend the hip (take your leg out behind you) and abduct the hip (take your leg out to the side).
Did you know that sitting for long periods of time can also switch off your gluteal muscles?
Muscles follow the principle of reciprocal inhibition. This means that in order for one muscle to contract, its’ opposing muscle must relax (like the reins on a horse).
When we are in a seated position, the hip flexors at the front of the hip are in a flexed, shortened position. This means that the gluteal muscles are relaxed, inactive, and on stretch.
If we spend a lot of time in this position, we can experience “adaptive shortening”. This is when the muscles adapt to the position they are in when we are seated, and when we stand they do not fully return to ‘normal’ position. This creates an anterior pelvic tilt (APT), in which the hip flexors remain in a semi shortened position. This can lead to lower crossed syndrome and low back pain.
A deviation from ideal posture can lead to compromised function of muscles or even inhibiting their action altogether. Returning to reciprocal inhibition, if the hip flexors are unable to fully relax, the gluteals are unable to generate their maximum power and the hip may be unable to move through its’ full range of motion.
The body prioritises function over all else. Therefore, if it can’t find enough movement and strength to carry out daily activity in the hip, it will compensate elsewhere (muscular substitution). Often the lower back becomes overworked and at risk of injury, pain, and compression at the lower spine.
Wake Up Sleepy Glutes
Pain in your hamstrings after performing glute dominant exercises (e.g. step ups) may indicate ‘sleeping booty’. Similarly, knees that track forward past the toes or in towards each other during a squat may suggest pelvic instability.
Your Reset Therapist can do special tests to see if your glutes are firing and to identify muscular imbalances and substitutions. We can then devise a treatment plan to relax and improve the condition of tight, overworked muscles. Your therapist may also recommend personalised stretches and exercises to strengthen muscles and to reeducate movement patterns.
Book in to improve your movement efficiency and reduce risk of injury!
Round your back and feel your abs contract.
Straighten your knee to stretch your hamstrings – which muscles contract now?
Lower crossed syndrome:
- Shortened and tight hip flexors
- Shortened and overworked lower back muscles
- Lengthened and weak hamstrings
- Weak core and abdominal muscles
Dormant gluteals can also be at the root of:
- Knee pain,
- Muscular substitution, and
- Poor range of motion at the hips
- Instability around the hip joint (which may cause pain or risk of injury)