Posterior Tilt of the Pelvis

Young female athlete exercising in a health club.
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Posterior pelvic tilt is a backward and upward rotation of the pelvic bone.

Whether you're exercising or just standing around, the chronic position of your pelvis matters a great deal to your spinal alignment and to your low back health. 

Spinal Alignment of Your Pelvis, Ribs, and Head

The pelvis, ribs, and head can be understood as structural units, or building blocks, of good spinal alignment.  Stacking them neatly - metaphorically speaking only, i.e., a structural unit does not actually sit right on top of the unit directly below - is often the first step in attaining strain-free upright posture, as well as addressing common problems such as  flat low back and swayback.

But what happens when the pelvis does not line up properly with the rib cage and other structural building blocks? 

A number of less than perfect pelvic positions exist that may negatively affect your posture and pain levels. Many of these stem from excessive forward or backward tilt of the pelvis.

Both types of tilts tend to result from a combination of your day to day habits and your biomechanics.

When your pelvis is tilted too far forward, this is called anterior pelvic tilt. Anterior pelvic tilt may lead to an accentuated low back curve and tight back muscles.

Posterior tilt is the opposite of anterior tilt.

Posterior Pelvic Tilt – A Matter of Mechanics

When you talk about the biomechanics of a posterior pelvic tilt, to a great extent, it will likely revolve around two things. The first is the orientation of the pelvis relative to the plumb line. The plumb line is an imaginary vertical line that goes through the center of your body, around which, when you're in good alignment, all other parts are balanced relative to each other.

The second aspect of posterior pelvic tilt biomechanics revolves around the degree of tension in your hamstring muscles.

In case you’re wondering, the word biomechanics refers to how living beings are structured as well as how they move mechanically. Think Isaac Newton.

Posterior Tilt Hip Biomechanics

In a posterior tilt, the hip bones are positioned behind the imaginary vertical plumb line, or at least, as can be the case during exercise, are moving in that direction.

As the hip bones are pulled backward, the bottom part of the pelvis is pulled forward.  This is because the hip bones form the top of the pelvis.

And because the spine is wedged in between the two hip bones in back, as all of this occurs, it tends to flatten the natural lumbar arch. 

As the lumbar arch is necessary for our ability to balance and to move, when we stay too long in a posterior tilt, we may be setting ourselves up for an injury. Examples include: Herniated disc, muscle imbalances that may cause pain or flat low back posture.

Posterior Pelvis Tilt – Your Daily Habits

Posterior pelvic tilt, like an anterior tilt can be a chronic condition. When it is, it may be due to your daily posture and movement habits. For example, do you tend to slouch when you're sitting? Regular slouching may lead to a posterior tilt and subsequent flattening of the normal sway of your lumbar (lower) spine. 

Habits such as slouching not only affect the position of the bones that make up the lower back, but they may result in long-term tension and/or weakness in the muscles in that area. This may make getting your pelvis back into balance challenging unless you have an exercise program for that purpose (and you do the exercises regularly.)

Posterior Tilt Exercise Programs

Even if you only need to prevent a posterior pelvic tilt from occurring, exercise is one of the best risk management strategies around. This is especially true if you do core and hip work. Frequent and varied movement in these muscles trains to meet the challenge of taking the pelvis into all possible directions. As long as you work without pain, this is likely a good thing for your back.

As mentioned above, another cause of a chronic posterior tilt position is too much hamstring tension. Hamstrings are the muscles at the back of your thigh. At the top, they cross over the hip joint, and one of their jobs is to extend your hip. Another is to drop your pelvis down. When they get too tight, of course, they can drop it down too much, which may result in a chronic posterior tilt position

The good news is there's an easy way to reverse a chronic posterior pelvic tilt due to tight hamstrings, and that is to stretch them! To that end, here are 7 hamstring stretches you might try.