Swayback posture is a particular type of poor posture that often leads to lower back pain. People who exhibit swayback posture have exaggerated curves in their spine, forward-tilting hips, and the appearance of leaning back when standing.
Here’s a look at what swayback posture is, what may cause it, and how it can be treated, including several exercises you can do.
- Your hips and pelvis are tilted forward in front of your head line.
- The forward shift of your pelvis causes an exaggerated inward curve in your lower back or lumbar spine; this is known as lordosis.
- It also causes an exaggerated outward curve in your upper back; this is called kyphosis.
The misalignment of your spine and pelvis from swayback posture can put you at an increased risk of developing back and hip injuries. It can also contribute to musculoskeletal injuries in other parts of your body that are forced into a compromised position, such as your neck and shoulders.
Poor posture can also put pressure on your internal organs. This may lead to problems such as:
Lordosis is an exaggerated curve of your spine. Some lordosis in your lumbar spine is normal, but excessive curvature is what’s often referred to as swayback.
The most common type of lordosis is lumbar lordosis. This is where your lower back becomes more curved than it should.
Lumbar lordosis is one of the features of swayback posture. However, some people may have lordosis without swayback posture if they don’t exhibit the other features.
Swayback posture is often caused by tight hamstrings and back muscles, weak abdominal muscles, and laxity in certain ligaments in the back and pelvis.
Sitting for long periods of time may cause these muscles to tighten. Over time, if not properly stretched, they can become stiff and weak.
Sitting for many hours with poor posture may also turn off your stabilizing muscles, such as your glutes and abdominals. When these muscles aren’t activated, it can lead to weakness over time — and this can also contribute to swayback posture.
Other factors that can contribute to swayback posture include:
- Hip problems. Hip conditions like developmental dysplasia, where the ball and the socket of the hip doesn’t fully form, can lead to restrictions that contribute to posture issues.
- Discitis. Discitis is a relatively uncommon disorder that causes inflammation of the discs between your vertebrae. It can be caused by autoimmune disorders, as well as viral and bacterial infections.
- Spinal abnormalities. Conditions like Scheuermann’s kyphosis can cause abnormal growth of the vertebrae, which in turn can lead to a range of motion limitations.
- Spondylolisthesis. With this condition, one of your vertebrae slips forward from the vertebra beneath it. It can occur in people of all ages, and the hallmark symptom is persistent pain in your lower back.
- Traumatic injury. Traumatic injuries, such as sports or motor vehicle accidents, can cause permanent damage to your spine that restrict your range of motion.
- Neuromuscular conditions. People with neuromuscular conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy sometimes exhibit swayback posture.
- Obesity. A
2016 studyfound that young adults with obesity have poor postural stability and are at an increased risk of lordosis due partially to increased abdominal fat.
In the absence of any other health conditions that may be a contributing factor, swayback posture can be treated by lengthening tight muscles, such as your hip muscles and hamstrings, and strengthening weak muscles, such as your abdominals.
Before starting a treatment program, it’s a good idea to get a proper assessment from a physical therapist or other trained professional. Your physical therapist can assess your posture and tell you specifically which muscles need stretching and strengthening.
However, it’s also important to know what caused your poor posture in the first place. If you don’t know what led to your swayback posture, you won’t be able to target the root of the problem. As a result, your posture may deviate back into swayback as soon as you stop doing your stretches and exercises.
If you have obesity, losing weight — especially around your abdomen — may help you improve the exaggerated curve in your lower back. If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk each day, you may benefit from taking more frequent breaks or using a standing desk for part of the day instead of sitting.
The following three exercises are among many that can help strengthen weak muscles that often contribute to swayback posture.
Benefits: The plank can help strengthen your abdominal muscles, glutes, shoulders, and upper back.
To do this exercise:
- Lie facedown on a comfortable surface like a yoga mat.
- Push yourself up onto your toes and palms, with your body in a straight line from your head to your ankles. If this is too intense, try starting with a low plank: Lift up just onto your forearms instead of straightening your arms all the way.
- Keep your abdominals and glutes braced as you hold this position.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds. Increase the time as you get stronger.
2. Glute bridge
Benefits: This exercise can help strengthen your core muscles and glutes.
To do this exercise:
- Start by lying on your back, with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your arms flat against the ground by your sides. Turn your feet out slightly.
- Push into the ground with your feet and lift your hips by squeezing your glutes, until there’s a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Pause for a couple of seconds, then return to the starting position.
- Do one to two sets of 15 reps to start. Try to work up to three sets as you build your core strength.
3. Resistance band pull apart
Benefits: This exercise helps strengthen the muscles in your upper back and shoulders.
To do this exercise:
- Stand while holding a resistance band tightly between your hands. Raise your hands in front of you so that they’re shoulder-width apart and parallel with the ground.
- Pull the band apart while squeezing your shoulders together, until your arms are stretched out by your sides.
- Pause for a moment, then return to the start position
- Do one to two sets of 15 reps to start. Try to work up to three sets as you build your upper body strength.
Swayback posture is one of the most common types of postural misalignments. It’s characterized by hips that are pushed forward, exaggerated curves in the spine, and the appearance of leaning back when you’re standing.
Swayback posture is often caused by muscle weakness and tightness. A physical therapist can provide you with an individualized plan to help you strengthen and stretch key muscles and maintain good postural habits.
If you’re not sure if you have swayback posture or what caused it, be sure to see your doctor for a diagnosis.