The hips. One of the absolute most fascinating mechanisms in the body. The femur head and the acetabulum of the hip come together in a ball and socket joint. This is the beautiful joint that gives us the ability to flex, extend, and roll our leg around into all different types of movements. But there is something funny thing about the hips (and the shoulders for that matter, but we will get to that later). You have two independent legs. They can both do whatever they want. These two independent legs then join together through the pelvis, which is one total structure. There is some movement via the pubis symphysis and the SI joint, but not that much. That is a lot of information to be going through one structure, not including the information coming from the spine, shoulders, arms, and head. All in all, it is no wonder that more people don’t have issues in their pelvis, though everyone seems to think that they have an anterior pelvic tilt.

But alas, I am here to {hopefully} shed some light on your pelvic issues. But before I even get started, if you begin reading this and have follow up questions please feel free to reach out to me as I am happy to explain more.

An Important Caveat

We all naturally have an anterior pelvic tilt. Yup, I said it. What constitutes and anterior pelvic tilt is when the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) is lower than the posterior superior iliac spine (PSIS). Naturally the ASIS sits lower than the PSIS.

Why Diagnosis Don’t Matter

I know that in this day and age there are a million different ways to see if you have an imbalance. From tests, to pictures, to match that symptom we have the options to self-diagnose all we want. But something funny happens when we either give ourselves or get a diagnosis, we stop thinking outside the box. We start to search for a term and find answers to correct that term, forgetting, almost instantly, that we are all different. Posture is a funny thing. It is a new study. A new field to understand. The knowledge we have about bodies is usually based on cadavers. Yup, dead bodies. And I don’t know if you know this, but dead bodies and live bodies act differently.

We are a living, breathing tensegrity model. A tensegrity model is like a spider web. You pull here and it tightens up there. You bunch up and make more web here, your pull tension from all different points of there. In the body think of pulled or bunched up web as tight muscles, build up fascial lines, stress and tension. It changes our body mechanics as a whole, and that is a lot to change that is all happening at once.

So, while I am going to be using words like posterior or anterior pelvic tilt and there are ways to test what you have below, you will see that these are not diagnosis to live by. Instead, they are meant to be postural patterns that you are here to free yourself from.

Where Do Pelvic Imbalances Start

This is always a funny conversation to have with clients. When did it, e.g. the pain, the postural deviation, start? Usually people like to launch into a story about sports when they were younger, an accident or fall they experienced, or some other anomaly. All of this to explain that they have an anterior pelvic tilt or a rotation.

Posture, most basically explained, is the sum of total movements that we do throughout our day. It’s the way that our bodies adapt to the movements we create. If your pelvis can adapt to have an elevated pelvis, I can assure you it can adapt to have a level pelvis, or at least a pelvis that doesn’t give you problems. So, imbalances start from movement. This brings about two interesting points for movement.

  1. Movement that is usually asymmetrical. We live pretty asymmetric lives. I don’t know that last time my arms and legs were both doing the same thing, besides the butterfly stroke when I go swimming. Other than that, one leg and one arm are swinging forwards, my legs are crossed when I sit, and I don’t think I even sleep even. Do you?
  2. The pelvis get movement input from more than just the legs. They also get input from the spine, arms, and head. When most recommendations for an anterior pelvic tilt is to work on releasing the hip flexors, strengthening the hamstrings, and working on core, it’s no wonder it doesn’t work for everyone. When I say it doesn’t work, I mean that it doesn’t consistently change someone’s posture. It may alleviate pain or change posture for a period of time, but most people will revert back to their normal standing posture.

Essentially, movement coming from anywhere can have an effect on the pelvic positioning.

 

Common Symptoms of a Poor Functioning Pelvis

Yes, there are symptoms to a poor functioning pelvis. Remember that our body is all connected. So, this part is going to include some postural signs and some other, bodily signs. I’ll explain when we get there.

Posture Symptoms – Yes, Including the Anterior Pelvic Tilt

So, our pelvis is the communication junction between our upper and lower bodies. Great! That means that a lot can go wrong when our pelvis isn’t feeling right. Essentially your bodies goal is always going to be to create balance and it can do that in funny ways.

Let’s say you have a rotated pelvis. There is a good chance you are dealing with some balance issues (learn more about balance in my first article in this series). If your pelvis is rotated, then the rest of your body is going to rotate to balance out that one rotation. This can lead to pain or strength on one side of your body and not that other.

Let’s say you have an anterior pelvic tilt. Instead of dealing with left to right disparity, you are now dealing with a front to back disparity (again, more on this in the first article). If the pelvis is dumping forward or the center of the ankles, then the upper body can go one of two ways: with it or against it. Most bodies will choose to go against it, leading to sway back or kyphosis. When this happens then you have to offset the backwards movement by rounding the shoulders and bringing the head forward. Not everyone, but again, most bodies will do this.

If you have a posterior pelvic tilt, you are getting the opposite but equal reaction to an anterior pelvic tilt. As the pelvis begins to tip backwards the rest of your body must move forwards, whether that is a bent knee, rounded shoulders, or a forward head posture. Because out toes are in the front of our bodies, we have more lenience and ability to support ourselves when our center of gravity goes forward. Not so much when we begin to move our center of gravity backwards. So, our bodies have to react more severely to maintain balance in a posterior pelvic position.

Other Bodily Symptoms

Again, our bodies are all inter-related. Our bones create the structure for our muscles to attach and then pull and our other internal organs to sit inside of. Now think of our pelvis as a bowl that sits at the bottom of this structure and carries a lot of our internal organs, which it does. Above it we have the rib basket and behind it we have the spine. Our heart and lungs are protected and kept in place via the rib basket. Everything is kept in place via the proper positioning of the pelvic bowl.

This is not to say that any little offset of our pelvis will create issues in our other organs, but over a prolonged period of time we are definitely going to produce some symptoms. Symptoms can be in our intestines: constipation, diarrhea, inability to pass, or malabsorption due to excess stress on these systems as they are trying to keep from falling out of place. Symptoms can also be in other places like headaches, both behind the eye and over the top of the forehead.

While I am sure that other bodily symptoms can and do occur, these have been the biggest differences that I have seen in my own postural reeducation and that of my clients.

Why We Should Not Chase Perfection

Let me explain what I mean by perfection. The need to sit, stand, walk, and do all activities with perfect posture, all the time. Except weight lifting, always weight lift and attempt perfect posture. Why? Because you are adding load, sometimes crazy amounts of load, to the body. If you do not have proper posture here, then you are running the risk of injury due to an outside force acting on an unbalanced mechanism, much like a building falling in a minor earthquake due to poor infrastructure.

Anywhoo, in other parts of life, do not chase perfection. Why? Because it is not natural. Do you really think our ancestors walked around with proper posture all the time? No. And I am not talking prehistoric ancestors, but 2 or 3 generations ago, when people weren’t in as much body pain. But you know what they did a lot more than us? Moved, in general. They stood, they walked, they sat, they twisted, bent over, climbed things, engaging their whole bodies throughout the day. This is why there was less pain, their movement patterns were not as repetitive or prolonged as ours are today. We sit and stand for extended periods of time. No wonder it is hard for us to be active and move our bodies. We simply don’t do it.

Your pelvis will normally shift throughout the day depending on the movements you do. And if you do enough movements that use all the muscles around your pelvis then you end up with a balanced pelvis. By balanced for you, I mean, it does not bring you pain, it can do all of its intended functions, and it does not hinder any other bodily movements.

Tests to Figure Out Your Imbalance

Right here I am going to write out one super simple test that you can use to test multiple imbalances. Try it out and comment what you think.

Rotation / posterior / anterior pelvic tilt –

To test a rotation, find a couch/chair/ottoman that will fully support your legs when you relax them. If the surface is too low add pillows to help create more height.

 

  1. Lay down on your back with your legs up on the ottoman and your butt snug to the ottoman.
  2. Put your arms by your side, at a 45° angel, towards the ottoman.
  3. Now relax. Totally and completely.
  •  What to feel for:
  1. Do you have one hip pressing into the ground more than the other? Rotation.
  2. Lower back is completely flat to the ground and it feels like the sacrum, or the lower part of your bum, is rounding off of the ground with possible shoulders rounded off the ground? Posterior pelvic tilt.
  3. Lower back arches heavily off the ground and shoulders and tailbone are pressing firmly into the ground? Anterior pelvic tilt.
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