Dead butt syndrome is apparently a new syndrome that many runners are suffering from, but don't realize it. This newest "syndrome" is, from my Somatic Educator point of view, another nebulous diagnosis that seeks to put a name to something the medical profession still doesn't know enough about: Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA)
SMA can cause Dead Butt Syndrome.
SMA is the condition of chronically contracted muscles that occurs due to habituation from stress reflexes (accidents, injuries, surgeries, repetitive training). SMA, which occurs at the level of the nervous system, can cause hip pain, back pain, sciatica and a host of other functional problems. The brain actually loses the physiological ability to relax, release and control the muscles. Thomas Hanna, PhD, wrote about it in his book, Somatics: Awakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health. This book will change your perspective on your own body and your potential to regain mastery over your body.
When a muscle hurts or is dysfunctional, the problem is never in just one muscle. There is a lack of control in a specific action pattern and group of muscles that perform that action that causes a particular muscle to become sore. In Dead Butt Syndrome, the gluteus medius is allegedly the culprit in addition to "weak abdominal muscles."
Here is why I disagree:
There's always a full body pattern of dysfunction that needs to be awakened, addressed, and reversed when just one muscle is causing pain. It doesn't matter if it's the neck, the foot, the hip flexor, or the calf. If a group of muscles is chronically contracted, one's entire ability to move becomes unbalanced. These muscles are usually the ones with SMA. The sensory motor system simply needs to be improved (by relaxing these "amnesic" muscles at the brain level) so that balanced movement becomes "the norm" again.
Chronically contracted muscles may feel weak, but are, in actuality, so tight that their function becomes impaired.
In this "dead butt" hypothesis, it means that the gluteus medius is either chronically contracted or can't function properly because other muscles are so contracted that fluid movement of the back, waist, abdominals, and pelvis is inhibited. Chronically contracted muscles feel "dead" and weak because they don't get enough oxygen and blood, when in fact they are actually so tight that they can't relax!
I participated in a wonderful class the other evening taught by John Belkewitch of Day 1 Personal Training. We did all kinds of functional mobility drills that required focus and somatic awareness. The next day I was incredibly sore and tight - in my right thigh. What did I learn? I learned that my right side had more SMA than I realized, and was really tight. My left side wasn't participating fully to balance my movement. The lesson here is that whenever one one part of your body is sore after a vigorous physical activity - suspect Sensory Motor Amnesia - and begin to notice more closely where you might have lost control of balanced movement.
To get to the root of your problem, attend a class, workshop, or private session in Somatic Education. You can save money spent on short term pain relief methods, learn to reverse pain for the long term.