Posterior Pelvic Tilt Definition

A woman exercising on a ball has her pelvis in posterior tilt.
A woman exercising on a ball has her pelvis in posterior tilt. Curt Pickens / E+ / Getty Images

Posterior Pelvic Tilt Definition:

Posterior pelvic tilt is a backward and upward rotation of the pelvic bone.

The position of your pelvis matters a great deal when it comes to spinal alignment and low back health.  Ideally, your pelvis will drop directly down to align vertically with your rib cage.  Called neutral pelvic alignment, this position is instrumental for keeping the stress out of your spine.

The pelvis, ribs and head can be understood as structural units - or building blocks - of good spinal alignment.  Stacking them neatly (metaphorically speaking only, i.e., a structural unit does not actually sit right on top of the unit directly below) is often the first step in attaining strain-free upright posture, as well as addressing common problems such as flat low back, swayback and more.

But what happens when the pelvis does not line up well with the rib cage and other building blocks?  While a number of less than perfect pelvic positions exist that may negatively affect your posture and pain levels, two of the most common misalignment are the posterior pelvic tilt, and the anterior pelvic tilt. 

Posterior Pelvic Tilt – A Matter of Mechanics

Both the anterior and the posterior pelvic tilt tend to result from a combination of biomechanics and your habits.  When you talk about the biomechanics of a posterior pelvic tilt, to a great extent, it will likely revolve around two things: First, where the hip bones are relative to the plumb line.

(The plumb line is an imaginary vertical line that goes through the center of your body, around which, when you're in good alignment, all other parts are balanced relative to each other.)  The second aspect of posterior pelvic tilt biomechanics is about how tight your hamstrings are.

And in case you’re wondering, the word biomechanics refers to how living beings are structured as well as how they move mechanically.

(For this, think Isaac Newton and similar scientists.)

In a posterior tilt, the hip bones tend toward being behind the imaginary vertical plumb line.  Because the hip bones are part of the whole pelvis, (the top part) as they are pulled backward, the bottom part is pulled forward.  And because the spine is wedged in between the two hip bones (in back) as all of this occurs, it tends to flatten the natural lumbar arch most of us have.  This arch is necessary for our ability to balance and to move, so when we stay too long in the posterior tilt, we may be setting ourselves up for injuries (such as herniated disc), or for muscle imbalances that cause pain.

Posterior Pelvis Tilt – Your Daily Habits

A posterior pelvic tilt is something we (generally speaking) can move into and out of, as is an anterior pelvic tilt.  Based on a number of factors, including but not limited to injuries, conditions, emotional states and more, a assuming posterior tilt position with your pelvic can become a habit.

If you stay like this over time, you may find that moving into an anterior tilt (which is in the opposite direction) or even moving from your posterior tilt to neutral is tougher than you think.

This may be because the muscles that contract to keep you in posterior tilt are very tight, while the opposing muscles can’t produce much movement - because they are weak and/or overstretched.  The best way to avoid this is to exercise your core and pelvis regularly.  This trains the muscles to meet the challenge of moving the pelvis into all possible directions. Another thing you can do to release from a chronic posterior pelvic tilt is to stretch your hamstrings regularly.  

To that end, here are 7 hamstring stretches for you to try.  

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