By Alex Cromartie, CPT
When performing a postural assessment of a new client, the pelvis is one of the first areas I look at to give me clues as to how their body is operating mechanically. The pelvis may not be the root of their postural problems (look a little lower to their feet ankles), but it does seem to be a key to understanding why your posture is the way it is. If your pelvis tilts forward (an anterior tilt), or backward (a posterior tilt), then your lower back becomes unstable, and chaos ensues! Most people tilt one way or the other, and eventually their lower back (among other things) feel the effects. Here’s what you need to know about both of these conditions.
Let’s start with the anterior pelvic tilt (also known as lower-cross syndrome). If your butt seems to stick out, and your lower back is overly arched, this may be you! In my experience, people who’s pelvis tilts forward tend to be more active in their youth (of course genetics play a major role here too). Without training though, the abs and hamstrings become lengthened and weak. Likewise, the opposite muscles (the erectors and the hip flexors) become tight (and also weak). Over time, gravity and lack of training take their toll and make the excessive arching in the lower back (called lordosis )worse and worse, eventually causing back problems.
On the other end of the spectrum we have have the posterior pelvic tilt. In this case the pelvis tilts backward (imagine you are tucking your tailbone between your legs and pushing your groin forward). This causes the lower back to not be arched enough, again putting excessive pressure on the spine. I find that this condition occurs more in people who were sedentary in their early life (myself included). The muscular imbalance in a posterior pelvic tilt is the exact opposite of an anterior pelvic tilt (the abs, hamstrings, and in particular the glutes are tight and weak, and the erectors and hip flexors are lengthened and weak). Of course in reality there’s a bit more to it than this, as the complexity of the body is never-ending. Knowing which direction your pelvis tilts (if any) will give you a starting point though to begin stabilizing this crucial area.
Try doing a cat/camel stretch. Do you have considerably more range of motion when doing one than the other? If you’re a lot better at the “cat” stretch than the “camel” stretch, you may have a posterior pelvic tilt. If the “camel” is much easier, thats a clue that you have an anterior pelvic tilt. Remember though that this is just one clue in a complicated puzzle. Find a qualified fitness trainer to help you address your specific needs.
Both anterior and posterior pelvic tilts need to be addressed with physical training. Tight muscles can be lengthened with proper stretching, and overly lengthened muscles can be tightened though weight training. Both interfere with your training progress, as they cause an inability to stabilize the the lower spine. Even more worrisome though are the serious problems the can cause you down the road if you don’t do anything about it. So get busy!