My butt is flat! Why sitting too much causes chronic pain, muscle atrophy and problems moving around.

This post is reposted from last spring and added to, because it’s one of the most searched topics on my site. I figured posting it again and including additional information and resources may be helpful.

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Rear end shape variations

My butt is flat. I swear on my life, it’s gotten flatter today from sitting in this darn chair and working at my computer.  People think that I’m exaggerating when I talk about this issue, but I’m not. Really, I’m not. My butt seriously gets flatter the more I sit and the less I move.

Here’s the issue – Do I really think that my butt gets flat after only one day of computer work?  Kinda, but not so much. However, what I do know is that after a few days, weeks, months or years of just sitting, my butt DOES get flatter.  Why? Because sitting “helps” your glut muscles, hamstrings and even your core, by supporting you so that your bigger muscles do not have to work so hard.  Essentially, the chair helps the big muscles take a load off and rest.  And then as you sit there for a while, pain increases (especially for me) and for so many of us.  Why? Because the big muscles are not being engaged, nor do they have to contract much and if they do not have to contract, they lose strength, shape and function. They also do not even have the biomechanics of your entire body working together to support them as they would if you were moving more.  What is Biomechanics?  It’s basically the study of how your body works together kind of like a machine does (specifically, Kinesiology). For example, your right arm issue isn’t always so isolated from you left foot, because fascia (aahhmm…..connective tissue!) essentially “talks” to itself through messages it sends through your body, just as the nervous system sends messages (and possibly faster).

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Inflamed & tight muscles easily compress nerves, causing even more pain

Read this – According to the Wikipedia description of the function of fascia, “fascia are normally thought of as passive structures that transmit mechanical tension generated by muscular activities or external forces throughout the body.  The function of muscle fascia is to reduce friction to minimize the reduction of muscular force. In doing so, fascia provide a supportive and movable wrapping for nerves and blood vessels as they pass through and between muscles.

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Lots of very important muscles that must be kept strong – big and small

So, then what happens if you sit too long? Your big muscles don’t have to work (ie. gluts, hamstrings and core), but all these little accessory muscles do. This is not so bad if they are working together with the bigger muscles; however, when these little accessory muscles have to support your whole pelvic area, hips and torso because of the “help” your chair is giving your big muscles, the result is ……. BIG time spasms, pain and discomfort.  Thus, leading you to realize that this is probably not the best position for a hypermobile spine.

What also happens? Your butt “feels” flat because the glut muscles haven’t had to work a bit all day.  What happens if you keep doing this day in and day out?  Then, your butt will not just feel flat, but look flat and actually really be flat, because IT IS FLAT.  Hello??!!! Your butt is flat because your muscles are gone!  Buh-Bye.  Didn’t need them. You have your trustee ol’ chair to support you. You didn’t need those muscles anyway. 

Where does this issue leave people like us? It leads us to dealing with chronic pain, trying to get muscles spasms to release and a bunch of discomfort.  And if you are like anything like me, I’m all about learning ways to decrease these issues and find positions that feel better, hurt less and do not make my butt flat.

Below, I’ve listed links to a few pertinent blog posts, including the recent one EDS on a cellular level – Why that important to “Moving your DNA.” Additionally, I included links to a few exercise and myofascial release techniques that have peaked my interest and links to where you can find online pilates, barre and yoga videos for all levels. The focus for all of these techniques is natural movement and helping your body to move more easily.  Moving more does not necessarily mean more exercise (although, I think that’s a great idea), but it focuses on sitting less, spinal alignment and moving better.

Last, I’ve included a few #EDSFitTip(s) (my own hashtag where you can find exercises I’ve posted on Instagram, Pinterest and other social media platforms). These are two of my favorite “go to” glut exercises that can be done while lying in bed or on the floor. Both are also fairly traditional, common in PT, pilates, barre and yoga.  Both work well to strengthen the gluts and help stabilize the pelvis and lower back.  Yes, I do both while in bed or laying on the floor, even when I’m not working out, all.of.the.time.

Exercise #1 – Modified, somewhat like the superman in pilates, but it’s more like a frog, glut lift. You can perform this exercise with or without your upper body engaged.  The idea is to engage your gluts and your hamstrings by perform small lifts up and down.  You may also feel your lower back engaged, but you should not feel discomfort. If you do, stop.  

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Exercise #2 – The good ol’ bridge. I do variations with my legs stretched further out, or with my toes lifted a bit.  I also perform modifications with one leg lifted, in order to work both sides harder.  I do this before bed quite often and before I go to sleep. Contracting and releasing my glut and hip muscles helps the pain, which allows me to relax easier. Thus, it also helps me fall asleep faster.  

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Below are two additional glut and hamstring exercises that I had saved. Both are a bit more advanced, although the one on the left is somewhat similar to the frog glut lift above and is another version of the superman. 

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A few “move easier with chronic pain” techniques: 

1. Restorative Exercise: http://www.restorativeexercise.com (by Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA)

2. The Bowen Technique: http://www.bowenworks.org (by Isobel Knight, author of “A Guide to Living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome: Hypermobility Type 2nd Edition)

3. The Melt Methodhttp://www.meltmethod.com/about

4. The Feldenkrais Methodhttp://futurelifenow.com/cynthia-allen/

5. Primitive Movementhttp://www.primitivemovement.com/about/the-practice/

In addition, EDS Awareness is held a free webinar on “The Feldenkrais Method” with Cynthia Allen on March 17th, 2015. To view the presentation slides and listed to the webinar recording, go here.

Now.. get up and move around!

Additional Resources:

– Post from August 24th, 2015: EDS on a cellular level and why it’s important to “Moving your DNA.”

– Post from our 1st Moving Naturally with Hypermobility seminar – Basic hypermobility/Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome presentation by Chris, my presentation and Victor’s presentation on ways you can move more and move better, if you cannot take on an exercise class just yet. His focus is on improving that way we move during our normal and natural movement patters (AKA – Natural Movement).

Post 1/3 on Exercise for EDS

Post 2/3 on Exercise for EDS

Post 3/3 on Exercise for EDS

– Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman

Pilates Anytime – online pilates videos

Pilates by Lisa – online pilates & barre videos of varying lengths and fitness levels (mat workouts too)

As always, do not perform any exercise without consulting your physician or physical therapist first. Any attempt at performing one of the exercises that I have attached above, is done at your own risk.  Please read the disclaimer here