'Dormant Butt Syndrome' the root of knee, hip and back pain

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By the time you're done reading this story, three more people will undergo knee surgery in the United States to repair their meniscus. It happens a lot, but doctors say some of those surgeries could be avoided if only more people would work to strengthen their rear ends.

Jennifer Ernst, for example, was training for a half marathon when she began having pain in her right knee.

"I continued to run, thinking that it would just go away. But then eventually the pain got so severe that I couldn't run. It was a stabbing pain in my knee," she says. An MRI showed a tear in her meniscus so severe that it required surgery.

Afterwards, Ernst's physical therapist said the problem with her knee may have actually started a bit higher on her body with a condition called Dormant Butt Syndrome.

"It basically refers to the gluteus Maximus or the glute muscles just not functioning as efficiently as they should," explains Chris Kolba, a physical therapist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He coined the term Dormant Butt Syndrome and says it's the root of a lot of knee, hip and back pain.

He says when glute muscles aren't strong enough the muscles and joints around them absorb strain, causing damage. But it's not just exercise that causes problems. Kolba says patients can also suffer from Dormant Butt Syndrome by sitting too much and even by sleeping in the fetal position. The good news is, there are ways to prevent it before serious damage is done.

"Stretching your front of your thigh, stretching your hip flexor and then doing some exercises to specifically activate the glutes and the lateral hips as well," Kolba says.

Jennifer says she assumed that running was enough to strengthen her back side, until she suffered this major injury.

"I think that's where we get into trouble as runners is we don't do enough cross-training or strength training. But no, I didn't ever think that I would be diagnosed with something like this," she says.

Kolba says changing the way you sleep isn't easy, but if your job requires you to sit most of the day, take frequent walk breaks or get a stand-up desk. You should also do exercises either at home or at the gym to strengthen your glutes.