SWAY BACK POSTURE: What's happening to my posture?

Sway Back posture, sometimes written as swayback posture, comprises elements of several specific alignment issues.

The head, neck, and shoulders display key characteristics of the forward head posture, with the upper back presenting with an excessive thoracic kyphosis (exaggerated posterior curve or rounding of the spine), and the lower back with a decreased lumbar spine lordosis (a flattening of the curve of the lower back).

Shifts in one region of the body lead to compensatory changes in adjacent areas. A forward-tilting pelvis, for example, might induce a forward head position, known as compensatory adaptation. Each departure from normal posture creates new postural issues.

The pelvis also shows an excessive posterior tilt (tilting under) – possibly affecting the degree to which the lower back can curve.

Sway Back Posture Pattern

What are some characteristics that may appear with Sway Back Posture? Your,

Shifts in one region of the body lead to compensatory changes in adjacent areas. A forward-tilting pelvis, for example, might induce a forward head position, known as compensatory adaptation. Each departure from normal posture creates new postural issues.

What do we mean by compensatory adaptation?

Compensatory adaptation is when one part of your body shifts away from normal posture and creates adjacent poor posture challenges.

In a swayback posture, tight hamstrings is one of the main culprits. The hamstrings are muscles on the back of your hips that attach to your pelvis and pull it under when they contract. Every time you walk, the hamstrings tighten. So if you sit for most of your day (which many people do), your hamstrings are in a shortened position for hours.

Your body can’t tell the difference between when you’re standing or sitting, so it tightens the hamstrings to keep you in a healthy upright posture. Over time, this tightness becomes permanent if not addressed, and your pelvis begins tilting forward due to a high hamstring tone.

What are the major characteristics?

  • Head may sit too far forward
  • Neck may then have an increased curve
  • Shoulders fall forward and downwards, 
  • Chest and Rib Cage: The upper chest collapses, flattening out the chest wall. The chest also moves back and in.
  • Upper Back then has an increased chance of bending forward, which leads to Kyphosis.
  • The lower Back flattens out
  • Pelvis tilts or tucks under (Posterior tilt) while pushing forward.
  • Knees can become locked.

Sway Back Causes

There are a few things that can cause sway back posture.

  • Tight hamstrings from sitting for long periods of time
  • Abdominal muscles that are too weak to support your spine
  • Poorly fitting shoes or clothing that restrict movement
  • Carrying heavy objects on one side of the body
  • Pregnancy
  • Previous injuries
  • Age – As we age, our muscles and ligaments can become weaker and less able to support our posture.

Which muscles may be short influencing your posture? Which are the tight muscles?

  • Tight Hamstring Muscles – Back of the thigh
  • Some Abdominal Muscles, including the Rectus Abdominis (the muscles that form the six-pack).

Which muscles may be weak?

  • Quadriceps – Hip Flexors
  • Weak Lower Abdominal Muscles
  • Upper back – Extensors
  • Front of neck – Neck Flexors

What are some considerations for Sway Back Posture?

Forward head posture, which is a characteristic of poor posture, can be evident. 

In some cases of Sway Back Posture, the lower back may appear with too great a curve (Lumbar Lordosis). This change is the pelvis and legs moving slightly forward relative to your upper body (especially the rib cage and shoulders).

The upper body moves slightly back, creating the ‘appearance’ of more bend in the lower back than is actually present.

 

When Considering Improving Sway Back Posture

When considering how to improve this posture pattern, some emphasis should be placed on how the lower abdominals (especially the External Obliques) are functioning. Often with Sway Back Posture, there is the potential for weak abdominals, and therefore an understandable approach would be to strengthen them. However, on its own, this will only partly help overall posture improvement.

Additionally, there will be the need to strengthen the upper back muscles to simultaneously bring the spine’s natural curves into alignment.

 

What about a neutral pelvis?

A neutral Pelvis position is when your pelvic bones are level on the ground with each other. This means that you need to have a neutral pelvis to maintain good posture. For example, your pelvis should not be tilted forward or backward.

As always, improving posture requires encouraging all the major body segments into alignment while improving your posture.

References
Kendall, F.P., McCreary, E.K., & Provanc, P.G. (1993). Muscles, testing and function (4th ed). Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins.
 
Fujitani, Ryo & Jiromaru, Takumi & Noriyuki, Kida & Nomura, Teruo. (2017). Effect of standing postural deviations on trunk and hip muscle activity. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 29. 1212-1215. 10.1589/jpts.29.1212.
COMMON POSTURE PATTERNS