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Sway Back

With a sway back posture, you develop tight muscles and stiff joints around your shoulders, spine, pelvis and legs.

Common Signs & Symptoms

Diffuse pain in the centre of the low back, usually worse with prolonged standing

  • Physical characteristics include:
    • Weak and long abdominals (poor 'core' muscles)
    • Tight hamstrings and back muscles (which look like railroad tracks either side of your spine)
    • Stiffness in your back joints
    • A rounded, long middle back with slumping shoulders and a pelvis which is tilted forward
    • Flat buttocks
    • Bad habits such as locking your knees back or hanging on your hip

Description

With a sway back posture, you develop tight muscles and stiff joints around your shoulders, spine, pelvis and legs. If you draw an imaginary line from your shoulders to the ground, your pelvis and hips should be in the same line - if you have a sway back, your pelvis and hips are in front of the line of your shoulders so your pelvis moves forward and your shoulders follow behind. It's almost the opposite of slouching where your chest leans backward and your chin juts forward.

This posture leads to a stiff, long middle back curve (kyphosis) and increases the arch you have in the low back (lordosis) so you have more pressure going through your joints and discs. This can lead to pain and problems, especially if you stand a lot.
Today, sway back is the most common postural problem- around 70% of the population suffers from one. People who carry excess weight in their stomach area, (food/beer babies or real babies) suffer from sway back and it is common to have muscle imbalances, weak and long abdominals and short hamstrings.

Advice & Treatment

People with a sway back will usually have weak abdominals and by improving your core (tummy and back) strength it will help you to improve your posture. Because your muscles and other soft tissues become tight in your low back and hamstrings (back of your thigh), massage and stretches will take the strain out of your lower back.
Sway back puts more strain and weight on your back joints and ligaments. Strained joints stiffen up over time which makes it difficult for you to change your posture. If your ligaments are put under strain, they stretch over time which makes them loose and less able to support your spine. All these problems lead to more stress on your low back which can make you more susceptible to injuries.

Treatment programme:

Improve your core stability - strengthening your abdominal muscles will help to support your spine. Pilates exercise is excellent for this (and yes it’s for everyone, from Footballers to dancers to retired people)

• Improve the flexibility of your hamstring and back muscles - stretching your hamstrings and loosening your back muscles (through deep tissue massage or myofascial release) helps to restore your movement again
• Improve the flexibility of your middle back - Increase the flexibility of your spine either with stretches, yoga, Pilates and in some cases manual treatment by a physiotherapist, to help get movement back into your stiff joints
• Awareness is key - change the way you stand so your chest leans forward over your hips rather than back. This takes the strain out of your joints, muscles and ligaments
• Posture - Keep your neck long and tilt your pelvis bones backward (to activate your stomach muscles) and bring your shoulders over your hips when you stand

Good posture - be conscious of your body. Keep your neck long, nod your head to tuck your chin in, lift your chest bone forward, keep your shoulders in the same line as your hips and stand evenly on both feet.

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