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Mysterious butt pain and making syndromes from symptoms

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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I see a lot of abuse of the word “syndrome” in the world of pain and rehab medicine — people using the word to bluff a diagnosis. Usually it’s labelling unexplained pain with something that sounds medical when it should just be called “unexplained pain.”

For instance, “deep gluteal syndrome” is a thing that gets diagnosed, but it is not a thing that exists. It is not a diagnosis. It is not even a “syndrome.”

We mostly use the term “syndrome” to describe a somewhat distinctive unexplained pattern of symptoms. To qualify for “syndrome” status, butts need to suffer from a widely recognized clinical pattern of signs/symptoms that is not readily explained by any other diagnosis.

There is no such pattern for deep booty pain, in my opinion.

There might well be unexplained pain, but not in a familiar pattern. “Gluteal pain” isn’t a pattern of symptoms, it’s just a symptom. So it would be much more correct to simply say (jargon version) “idiopathic gluteal pain” or (vernacular) “mysterious butt pain.”

Gluteal amnesia and friends

Another common way to abuse the word “syndrome” is to bake a theory about what’s wrong right into the name, like “dead butt syndrome,” the deadness often attributed to “gluteal amnesia.” Paints a picture, doesn’t it? The forgetful arse! How quaint. How relatable. And it sounds more diagnosticalicious because the words “dead” and “amnesia” suggest something about the actual cause of the problem — maybe even a fixable something! Maybe, like a soap opera character, your butt can suddenly remember that it was married to Greenlee Smythe and the key to the family fortune is hidden in the gazebo! This is getting out of hand. Back on topic…

A name like “gluteal amnesia” more strongly implies a pattern of distinctive symptoms, and it still doesn’t actually exist. If you see a “syndrome” in there too, it’s only job is to create to the appearance of legitimacy.

Bizarrely, this is almost everything that I have ever written about gluteal amnesia or “dead butt syndrome,” so far (although it is closely related to the “weak hips” thing, which I have spent entirely too much time on).

Greg Lehman has devoted much more of his valuable time to butts than I have, so please read his thorough article, “Have the Butt Muscles of the World Gone Silent?” Answer: no. Betteridge’s Law of Headlines applies, as it usually does. But it’s a fun journey to that inevitable answer. (See also a new butt video from Greg.)

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