Called all kinds of things, from the bum, bottom, fanny, tush, seat, or derrière, the gluteus maximus is actually the largest individual muscle in the human body. A significant supporter of the lower back and legs, problems with this integral muscle can lead to back or leg trouble — and vice versa. Whenever you walk, climb stairs, or get up from a chair, you’re using this important body part.
As you can imagine, a dysfunctional derrière can be a real problem, leading to issues from ankle tendonitis to lower back issues, sciatica, and knee pain. What causes many of these issues stemming from a bum bum? Sitting in an office chair for hours on end. Yes, those coveted white-collar jobs come back to bite us, once again.
To evaluate the shape your bottom is in, use the following steps:
• Lie flat on your back with a pillow under your right leg.
• Place your hand under the right side of your gluteus maximus.
• Attempt to tighten your right buttock and use that muscle contraction to pull your leg down toward the pillow.
• As your leg presses into the pillow, you should be able to feel your gluteus maximus contract forcefully into your hand.
• Now, use the same exercise to evaluate your left buttock, comparing the contraction strength to your right buttock.
So what exactly are you looking for? If you’re unable to actively contract your gluteus maximus or notice a marked difference between the strengths of the left and right sides, you know you have a problem. In order to begin remedying the situation, try performing 2 sets of 10 repetitions each of the exercise above daily for 2 months, focusing on your weaker side. Hopefully, you’ll notice some improvement.
On a more preventive level, you can also help remedy your posterior problems by evaluating and improving your posture, particularly if you are office-chair-bound for several hours, each day. In addition to considering a standing desk or at least standing for tasks that don’t require you to sit, you can take the following steps to minimize the damage done by sitting for hours on end:
1. Keep from slouching, or rolling your pelvis, by making sure your feet rest comfortably, the backs of your knees are 1 to 2 inches from the seat, and your entire back — from pelvis to shoulder blades — are supported by the back of your chair.
2. Adjust your chair height to allow your hips to be higher than your knees and your feet to rest flat on the floor or a small stool.
3. Make sure your chair is supportive enough to allow your lower back, mid back, and shoulder blades to contact the upright part of your chair.
All in all, a healthy gluteus maximus muscle is important to your overall joint health and mobility, making small adjustments to posture and routine worthwhile. Failure to take care of this major muscle can mean all kinds of problems that go beyond a simple “pain in the butt.”
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit their website at www.PhysioDC.com or call them at 202-223-8500.
Image credits: Top by Piotr Marcinski/Fotolia; Middle by Francois du Plessis/Fotolia.