Gluteal Amnesia

You know when you're having an argument with someone and you get angry, and you know you can't say “you are such a dickhead” but you can get away with “you're acting like a dickhead”?

Bear with me here, but I reckon this applies to glutes, disc bulges, shin splints, heel spurs and a heap of other painful things. We have so many clients that come in and say “I was told it's shin splints and to stop running” or “I had a scan that showed a slipped disc so I haven't deadlifted since then”, and I'd like to convince them these things don't always mean that particular body part IS a dickhead, maybe it was just acting like one at one point.

 bear with me here

bear with me here

The language that any kind of specialist uses to explain a situation to a layperson is important in any field. But it's extra, super important for physiotherapists, massage therapists and all health practitioners because it's our job to explain to our clients what is happening to their own body. Which is, of course, an emotional subject that can often be clouded by pain, stress, anxiety and fear of not being able to work, or to train and compete in their sport, or even to be there for their family. I believe that understanding your condition is an indispensable step towards rehabilitating it, and conversely, that misunderstanding or fear will almost always block or slow down the road to recovery.

To take the most common example I cant think of: many clients have been 'diagnosed' with inactive glutes by their physio / osteo / myo / exercises phys / PT . So here's a simple test to see if you have completely inactive glutes : stand up. Did you crumple into a pile of clothes on the floor? If not, congrats – your glutes there and they are active.

Now as to whether or not they are 'lazy' – any therapist, any coach, or anyone at all with access to the internet should be able to activate glutes in under two minutes. It's no trade secret, it's easy to do and pretty damn hard to overdo, and it's one of the simplest and most effective tools we have to jump start rehab to a range of conditions.

So I'd like to argue that “gluteal amnesia” (I know – my arse can't remember my eBay password either) isn't a permanent, irreversible diagnosis. Just like many other situations we see in clinic, it's often a relatively simple issue that just needs some consistent rehab, not a big bunch of fancy, complicated words and a bigger bunch of fancy, complicated treatments.

It's sometimes easier to say (or to hear) “you have no butt at all” than “your glutes aren't activating well at the moment, and to be honest they've probably had a tendency to be like that a lot of the time, but no worries here's a couple of simple changes you can make every day to get them firing from now on.”

Just to be crystal clear: that's not to say that underactive glutes aren't real – they are real and they are really common. And certainly not all cases are that simple, I'm just saying that the language we use to explain them can colour the way clients approach their treatment – and THAT attitude will make a huge difference to the end result.

Even people without any symptoms, elite athletes and general massive units fail physical tests and have bad-looking scans – but that doesn't mean they are broken. There aren't always cause-effect relationships where we go looking for them, because the human body is complex AF, and almost everything about it is constantly changing according to the way we move every day. That's why we think that keeping you moving is so important.

We all get the #inspo facebook posts about the person who was told they would never walk again and is now carrying orphan goats up Mount Kilimanjaro, right? Well, they are fantastic stories about the indomitable human spirit triumphing over adversity bla bla eyeroll emoji (it's my favourite).

But keep in mind: they are also stories about someone in a white coat who got it hella wrong.

So what I'm saying is that if someone (including yourself) makes you feel broken or fragile, or tells you that there is something is permanently, irreparably wrong with you and you have to change careers and immediately stop doing that thing you love forever: tell them they're a dickhead and come get a second opinion.


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Peta is the head Remedial massage therapist at Evolutio. She's been coaching CrossFit for several years and is a qualified S&C coach. Peta works Mondays, Thursday and Friday afternoons at our clinic in Richmond. You can book in with her here or follow her sweet instagram @peta_glastier

Peta Glaister

evolutio sports physio richmond, 3 Bromham Place, Richmond, VIC, 3121