“Dead Butt Syndrome” = Sensory Motor Amnesia

“Dead butt syndrome” is apparently a new syndrome that many runners are suffering from, but don’t realize it.

I try my best to keep current with the latest discoveries in exercise science, health and movement….and yet this newest “syndrome” is, from my Somatic Educator point of view, another nebulous “diagnosis” that seeks to put a name to something the medical profession still doesn’t know enough about: SENSORY MOTOR AMNESIA (SMA).

SMA can cause “dead butt syndrome.”

SMA is the condition of chronically contracted muscles that occurs due to habituation from stress reflexes
(accidents, injuries, surgeries, repetitive training).  SMA, which occurs at the level of the nervous system, can cause hip pain, back pain, sciatica and a host of other functional problems. How? The brain (which controls the muscles) actually loses the physiological ability to relax, release and control them.Thomas Hanna, PhD., wrote about it in his book, Somatics, Awakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health. If you haven’t read this book, you should. It will change your perspective on your own body and your potential to regain mastery over your body.

When a muscle hurts or is dysfunctional, the problem is never in just one muscle. There is a lack of control in a specific action pattern and group of muscles that perform that action that causes a particular muscle to become sore. In “dead butt syndrome” the gluteus medius is allegedly the culprit. That and weak abdominal muscles.  I don’t agree, and here’s why:

There’s always a full body pattern of dysfunction that needs to be awakened, addressed, and reversed when just one muscle is causing pain. It doesn’t matter if it’s the neck, the foot, the hip flexor or the calf. If a group of muscles – the extensors that arch our back, trunk rotators that allow us to twist, or flexor muscles that allow us to bend forward – is chronically contracted, one’s entire movement becomes out of balance.  These muscles are usually the ones with sensory motor amnesia. The sensory motor system simply needs to be improved (by relaxing these “amnesic” muscles at the brain level) so that balanced movement becomes “the norm” again.

Chronically contracted muscles feel weak, but are, in actuality, so strong and tight that their function becomes impaired.

In this “dead butt” hypothesis, it means that the glut medius is either chronically contracted or can’t function properly because other muscles are so contracted that fluid movement of the back, waist, abdominals and pelvis is inhibited. Chronically contracted muscles feel “dead” and weak because they don’t get enough oxygen and blood, when in fact they are actually so tight and strong that they can’t relax!!

I participated in a wonderful class the other evening taught by John Belkewitch of Day 1 Personal Training. We did all kinds of functional mobility drills that required focus and somatic awareness. The next day I was incredibly sore and tight – in my right thigh. What did I learn? I learned that my right side had more SMA than I realized, and was really tight.  My left side wasn’t participating fully to balance my movement. The lesson here is that whenever one one part of your body is sore after a vigorous physical activity – suspect SENSORY MOTOR AMNESIA – and begin to notice more closely where you might have lost control of balanced movement.

Then, to get to the root of your problem, come to a class, workshop, or private session in Somatic Education. You can save money spent on short term pain relief methods, learn to reverse pain for the long term.


2 thoughts on ““Dead Butt Syndrome” = Sensory Motor Amnesia

  1. I am a complete convert after doing Somatics for a year. Nothing – massage, yoga, “stretching”, heat – could help me. The blame could be squarely placed on my intense project editing video, whereby I was only moving 1 finger (sometime my head) of my body for 9-12 hours a day. After a couple of months, I couldn’t walk anymore – I was in such pain. I was told that mine was “piriformis syndrome”, “sciatica”, and poor structural posture.

    My husband was suffering from something similar, but for other parts of his body. His neck, arm, and back was in such pain as well.

    You gave me 2 Somatics personal sessions, had me try a Somatics group class, and taught me how to do Somatics on my own. I also attended 2 additional workshops later. I have been pain free since my very first session with you.

    My husband had sessions with you and 2 workshops, and he can now solve his own pain problems every day he gets pain.

    The minute I started Somatics lessons, I stopped spending money on “health books” and other practitioners: I learned how to solve my own pain myself.

    I advise everyone who has pain to consider private or group Somatics sessions with Martha – or invite her to your own community to try with a group of your friends.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience of Somatics. I say experience, because that’s what it is to be “somatic.” It can’t be done to you or put on your (like manual therapy or some kind of gadget). The stresses of life are experienced from the inside out through your sensory motor system. How you respond to your stress with your posture (overarched or slumped in a chair), body mechanics (sitting all day at the computer) or movement (reflexive tightening to get something done or repetitive training) will determine your overall muscular health. Youre the only one who can fix you. All is takes is awareness, practice and a knowledgeable Somatics practitioner to teach you how.

      Keep up the good work!

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