The Science of Posture – Pelvic Tilt

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror whilst standing and noticed that you have an excessive arch in your lower back? Or conversely, you may have no arch at all! You may have rounded shoulders, or maybe one leg is slightly longer than the other? There are many reasons for postural abnormalities however from an anatomical point of view, the tilt of your pelvis could be the culprit.

The pelvis serves several functions; from supporting the spinal column and aiding us when we sit, stand and move to transferring weight from the upper axial skeleton to the lower limbs. It’s primary purpose however is to allow our upright posture and provide bipedal locomotion. Many suggest that our ability to walk upright is the hallmark of human beings, separating us from animals and our closest relative – the chimpanzee.

Whilst there are variations in the types of pelvic tilt, for the purpose of this discussion we are going to focus on anterior pelvic tilt. So what exactly is it? Well, our spine has a natural curve that forms a very soft ‘s’ shape and attaches to the pelvis – this is considered a neutral position. If the pelvis rotates anteriorly – that is, the front drops forward and the back rises, we fall out of that neutral position and into lumbar lordosis – an excessive curve in the lower back. Severe curves can create great compressive forces throughout the vertebrae, which can lead to facet joint irritation, increased disc pressure and disc degeneration.  It’s important to remember that much of the population has some form of tilt and it does not necessarily mean an individual will experience any pain or discomfort.

Like many conditions, there are numerous reasons why one might experience an anterior tilt, though the main factor to consider is dysfunctional muscular mechanics. Typically, tightness or shortening of the hip flexors and back extensors combined with weakness or lengthening in the abdominals, gluteals and hamstrings causes anterior rotational forces upon the pelvis, resulting in the tilt. Interestingly, those who sit at a desk for work are more likely to experience anterior tilt as poor seated posture is conducive to tightening and weakening in these muscle groups.

So how can we remedy this type of posture? The focus should be reducing the tension in the hip flexors and back extensors. In addition, strengthening exercises of the abdominals, gluteals and hamstrings will aid in restoring pelvic muscular balance. The body is a product of habit, so postural retraining is also essential to stop poor habits reforming.

If you feel you may benefit from a postural analysis, contact the Exercise Physiologists at Absolute Balance today!

Ed Daccache, B.Ex.SpSc, Grad.Dip.Ex.Sc (AEP, AES) (ESSAM)
Accredited Exercise Physiologist

 

References:

Al-Eisa, E., Egan D., Fenety A. (2004). Association between lateral pelvic tilt and asymmetry in sitting pressure distribution. Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy, 12(3), 133-142. Ebscohost.com

Lowe, W. (2013). Examining the Anterior Pelvic Tilt. Massage Today, 13(11). Retrieved from https://www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=14831

Yoo, W. (2013). Effect of Individual Strengthening Exercises for Anterior Pelvic Tilt Muscles on Back Pain, Pelvic Angle, and Lumbar ROMs of a LBP Patient with Flat Back. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 25(10), 1357-1358. Ebscohost.com