The Pelvis is a bony body structure that joins the upper end of your legs to the base of your spine. A healthy pelvis and hip are important for stability, movement, and posture. Most of the power displayed by athletes is generated by the hip; activities like sprinting, deadlifting and jumping cannot be achieved without a strong hip. It’s therefore important to be vigilant about any potential condition that might harm or deform your pelvis. One such potential deformity is the Pelvis tilt.
What is a Pelvic Tilt?
Pelvic tilt is an imbalance in the pelvis orientation in relation to the pelvic bones and the rest of the body. The pelvis is attached to several muscles in the legs and back, including the hip extensors and hip flexors. Hip flexors are the muscles located in front legs and their primary function is to lift the leg upwards; they include iliac muscle, psoas muscle, Sartorius and the quadriceps. The hip extensors move the thigh from a flexed position, to align it with the pelvis. The main hip extensors are the hamstrings and the gluteus maximus (the buttocks).
The above-named muscles place some pressure and strain on your pelvis even when you’re not using them, which lead to a slight but constant tugging. In an ideal situation, there should be some sort of equilibrium between the pressure and forces coming from both sides, in which case, the back, and the pelvis are able to remain perfectly aligned. Unfortunately, it’s quite common for people to experience some imbalances in these muscles, which eventually causes pelvic tilting. The pelvis can tilt backward, towards the front or to either side of the body.
Types of pelvic tilts
There are basically three types of pelvic tilts; anterior pelvic tilt, posterior pelvic tilt and lateral pelvic tilt.
1. Anterior Tilt
Anterior Tilt is characterized by the pelvis slightly pointing downwards and the back rising upwards. This often results in protruding buttocks, an exaggerated curve at the bottom of the spine, a slight paunch, a protruding stomach and a decrease in height. The upper body may also round up a little to balance the body which leaves the head jutting forward and shoulders stooped.
Anterior Pelvic tilt is commonly caused by an imbalance in the legs, hips, buttocks, back and stomach muscles in terms of flexibility, strength, and length which cause the pelvis to be pulled more to a certain direction than the other. People with this condition generally have tight, shortened quadriceps, psoas muscles, and erector spinae muscles. An imbalance in these muscles can be caused by both a sedentary and athletic lifestyle. Those who spend too much time sitting can develop muscle imbalances since the sitting position weakens the gluteal muscles and shortens the psoas. People who workout in an imbalance or uneven postures for long can also develop muscles imbalances.
Anterior pelvic if not addressed in good time can potentially lead to hip pain as a result of the rotated femurs, lower back pain, knee pain as a result of the knock-knee position and flat feet. You’re also at risk of developing shoulder pain, headaches, and neck pain. Generally, you may feel pain in any muscles that contribute to anterior pelvic tilt. Tight and strained muscles are likely to develop trigger points called knots.
2. Posterior Tilt
Posterior Pelvic tilt is when the back of the pelvis lowers and the front of the pelvis rises. This results from the lengthening of the hip flexors and the shortening of the hip extensors, particularly the gluteus maximus. Tight hamstrings and abdominal muscles, as well as weak psoas, quadriceps, and lower back muscles can also contribute to posterior Pelvic tilt. Habits such as slouching in the chair, slumping over a table or desk can distort your spine and result into the Posterior Pelvic tilt.
Posterior pelvic tilt isn’t as common as the anterior pelvic tilt. Those at risk of developing posterior pelvic tilt are commonly gym-goers who focus too much on their hamstrings, glutes and abdominal muscles. Leg presses and Straight leg deadlifts are the common workouts that may cause the hamstrings and glutes to tighten more than the quads and psoas.
The most common symptom of posterior pelvic tilt is the loss of curvature in the spine. The upper body will also begin to pitch forward while the cervical segment and the thoracic segment are pushed forward. People suffering from this condition may also appear stooped over. You may also experience a bulge or rupture on the posterior side as more pressure is applied to the spinal disc. Disc bulging or herniation can irritate the nerves causing sciatica pain.
3. Lateral pelvic tilt
Lateral pelvic tilt is characterized by tilting of the hip either to the right or left of the pelvis. It’s usually associated with people who have legs of different length or scoliosis. It can also be caused by one leg bending while the other remains straight. Left pelvic tilt occurs when the left pelvis drops lower than the right pelvis. The Right Pelvic tilt, on the other hand, occurs when the right pelvis drops lower than the left pelvis.
Lateral Pelvic tilting causes the muscles involved to tilt, go out of balance and cause back pain. The muscles affected include the Adductors, Quadratus Lumborum, and Glute medius muscle. Patients suffering from lateral pelvic tilt are likely to develop Disc degeneration, Sacroiliac joint pain, muscles Spasms and Disc herniation.
In general, hip hiking occurs as a result of tense hip flexors, hip adductors, and quadratus lumborum. To correct this condition, you need to stretch the lower back and hip flexors and strengthen your hip abductors. A dropped hip, on the other hand, is caused by weakened hip flexors and QL. To correct this condition, you need to strengthen your adductor and hip flexor muscles.
The above three main forms of pelvic tilt are commonly caused by extended, improper sitting and standing postures which results in muscle imbalance. Some forms of exercise that result in uneven impact and pressure on the body can also contribute to pelvic tilting. Mild cases of pelvic tilt can be corrected by correcting your sitting posture and living a more physically active lifestyle. Severe cases might, however, need specialized exercises and physical therapy supervised by a qualified physician. If not treated in time, pelvic tilt can cause a wide range of complication including back pain, muscle pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, headaches, joint and knee pain and pain in pretty much any muscles affected.