Last spring I wrote a blog post addressing tight glutes. More specifically, I wrote about how to keep your gluteus minimus from getting too tight. To remind you again, the gluteal muscles are comprised of 3 different muscles: gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and gluteus maximus.
To continue on this theme, I want to emphasize the importance of healthy glutes for runners. There was an interesting article in the NY Times a few months ago about “Dead Butt Syndrome”. I have never heard of this condition before, but the author was diagnosed with this during her marathon training. As the author explains “The technical name of the condition I have is gluteus medius tendinosis — an inflammation of the tendons in the gluteus medius, one of three large muscles that make up the butt. It’s a very isolated and painful injury that knocked me out of marathon training in January with stabbing pains in my hip.”
Inflammation and scar tissue can develop in muscles that are strained from overuse. Specifically in this case – as a runner fatigues during a run, the stress on the gluteal muscles will increase causing inflammation and scar tissue in the muscles. View the article for a more in depth discussion of the stress on the gluteus minimus and medius muscles with running).
To make things worse, the gluteal muscles of many runners tends to be weak. As a doctor interviewed for the NY Times article explains “Whether they’re recreational weekend runners up to the elite marathoners, the majority of runners I see have weak gluteus medius and gluteus maximus muscles.”
So what to do to prevent gluteal problems? “For about 70 percent of his patients, physical therapy that stretches the muscles in the hip and leg and strengthens the gluteus muscles, along with a temporary reduction in the mileage and intensity of running, resolves the problem. Deep tissue massage, which sends more blood to the area to break up scar tissue, along with strength training may also help to break the cycle of inflammation and scarring.”
If you are having serious butt/hip problems – best to see a PT or other health care specialist first. But for most runners massage (either self-massage with a tennis ball, or massage from a therapist) is great for breaking up the scar tissue. With self-massage (use a tennis ball on the floor or against the wall) make sure you massage all along the pelvis – from the front near the hip flexor, around the side and all along the pelvis to the sacrum. If you have any questions regarding self-massage with a tennis ball, feel free to ask me.
And of course strengthen those glutes now, before problems arise. Some great exercises can be found here. I have done most of these with my own trainer Erica, who I can thank for my strong butt. As a runner I am constantly massaging and strengthening my glutes. It does take time, but it is worth it to keep healthy and running.