Saggy Jeans and Tailfeathers: How Your Pelvic Positioning Affects Your Body

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Joanna Hess PT, DPT, PRC, WCS

Wait! Marie Kondo has you throwing out your favorite jeans because the joyless saggy bottoms that your tushy cannot manage to fill out? We are seeing an epidemic flat butt among mamas, plumbers, barre fanatics, and office workers—all with strangely similar symptoms—pelvic floor dysfunction, low back and sacroiliac pain, and a tucked under pelvis. In this blog we will explore why the position of the pelvis, the maker of flat butts and the maker of less flat booties, is important and how to more easily move out of this position for benefit beyond your behind.

Besides needing a new wardrobe, why should I care about my flat bum?

The flat bum or preference towards posterior pelvic tilting shrinks the distance between the front and back of pelvic outlet which changes pelvic floor muscle tension. The body needs access to the full range of the pelvis and pelvic floor muscles. Over time, this position could cause excessive pelvic floor activity to compensate for the loss of resting tension. Think of the pelvic floor muscles simplified as a rubber band between two points, the pubic bone and tailbone. When the distance between the two points decreases, the rubber band loses its stability from resting tension. Changes in pelvic position alters stability from the pelvic floor muscles. This posterior pelvic tilt position also decreases the accessibility for hip extension and therefore the upper glute muscles get sleepy. As the top of the pelvis moves back, the sacroiliac joint in the low back opens and decreases its bony stability. Translated into everyday life, the flat butt position increases the potential for incontinence, pelvic floor muscle tension, sacroiliac pain, and decreased efficiency in movement.

The Flat Bottom. Only in the eye of the beholder?

Pelvic floor and tilt

The disagreement of the “neutral pelvis” or zero-point causes confusion when describing pelvic tilt—anterior pelvic tilt, posterior pelvic tilt, and neutral pelvis. Some argue that the neutral pelvis is when the ASIS’s (front hip bones) are level to the PSIS (back butt dimples). Others say that the pelvis is neutral when ASIS’s are in the same plane as the pubic bone. Or for those with X-ray vision, pelvic tilt is the vector of the sacral angle at S2 in relation to the vertical axis. But often, neutral pelvic position is subjective to the observer and relative to other parts of the body—namely the spine/rib cage and thigh bone. Clinically, this “neutral pelvis” is hard to find because 1) pelvis’ are shaped very differently, 2) left and right pelvis on the same person can also be quite different, 3) feeling these bony landmarks have been shown to be remarkably unreliable, 4) the neutral pelvis should be on top of vertical thigh bones. See how the eyes can be tricked confusing spinal curve focusing on pelvic tilt without also including rib position.

Rib pelvic alignmentThe inability to move in and out of posterior pelvic tilt and anterior pelvic tilt decreases efficiency and possibly results in pain and instability. Anterior pelvic tilt is when the front part of the pelvis moves forward/down. Posterior pelvic tilt is when the front part of the pelvis moves back/up. A neutral pelvis on top of vertical femurs and happy rib cage should correlate with better muscle performance.

Do I have a flat butt?

Aside from the saggy jeans, the flat butts of the world have a few other correlations.

1. The Tailfeather Test: Stand comfortably and squeeze the gluts.

a. Neutral pelvis: Thigh bones rotate.

b. Posterior tilt-ing pelvis: The butt will further tuck under and mainly access the lower glutes.

c. Anterior tilt-ing pelvis: The pelvic floor muscles will do most of the work.

2. You bear weight more in the heels

3. Back of your rib cage is behind your pelvis

4. Your Thigh bones are angled so that your pelvis is front of your knees

5. Your lower belly pooch

6. You Sit with pressure more on the sacrum/tailbone vs. sit bone

7. You have Overactive and possibly overworking pelvic floor muscles—the front to back pelvic distance decreases with your posterior tilted pelvis and loses the resting tension from length. As described earlier, this is similar to tensile strength of a slightly stretched rubber band vs. rubber band without pull/tension. Therefore, your pelvic floor muscles have to work harder to keep some type of tension for purposes like continence, stability, etc. The inability for the pelvic floor muscles to work optimally can lead to incontinence, pain, and constipation.

9. You have Breathing and abdominal pressure problems

10. You have Sacroiliac joint pain. As the pelvis tips back, the sacrum moves away from the ilium decreasing the bony stability. The hip muscles have to work harder, but as felt in the Tailfeather Test, the glut muscles aren’t in a good place to work.

Is there a better fix than butt implants?

Bodies have and love variability for posterior, anterior and “neutral” pelvic positioning. The brain likes positions where muscles and nerves work with ease and stability—life shouldn’t be so difficult—but it needs the chance to choose and learn it. Folks working with bodies have traditionally “corrected” spinal curves by changing pelvic position. From what has already been discussed, spinal and pelvic position can be altered many different ways—from the changing weight-bearing area in the feet, to position of ribs and range of breath, and even head angles with visual and vestibular input. Consider these hacks into pelvic stability until the brain learns how to access this stability in many situations and positions.

1. Standing. Bring your chin down to your neck and keep looking down until you see the front of your ankles. You’ve just untucked your pelvis and brought your ribs over your pelvis. This one is courtesy of my colleague, Stephanie Stamas. Or check in to feel where the weight is going through your feet. The front to middle of the foot is a good place to start and then do the Tailfeather Test. You might have to toggle other parts of the body because of how the body will compensate in the chain.

2. Sitting. Get your hips as far back as possible. Or put a pillow in the back of the chair so that your hips can find the pillow and you are sitting on top of your sit bones. Then, relax the trunk into the seat back/pillow. Again, you’ve untucked your pelvis and brought your ribs over the pelvis.

3. Better squats/lunges/burpees/stairs/ab work. You can do 5 sets of 20 squats, but still no junk? Take care to see if your pelvis is tucking under in the movement. If so, use an inhale to keep the pelvic floor lengthening as your hips bend in movement. Later, the movement should be dissociated with breath pattern (as long as you are breathing.)

4. See a physical therapist. Often times, the habits of pelvic tucking are a little more complicated because it is a protective and compensatory mechanism for stability. A physical therapist can help with seeing the bigger picture and how different parts of the body relate to each other. They can also help facilitate better movement through manual therapy and specialized movement.

Good luck with the joy sparking!

BBPT Health Tip: How to Adjust your Posture to Avoid Shoulder and Neck Pain

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Tina Cardenia PT, DPT

In today’s society, most of us spend time in front of the computer or other electronics for work, school, or pleasure, which contributes to poor postural habits including rounded shoulders and forward head postures. Being in these positions will cause your muscles around your shoulder and neck to accommodate into that rounded position, resulting in inefficient lengthening of some muscles and shortening of other muscles, which results in an imbalance of strength and stability and high potential for injury. Having rounded and inefficient shoulder stability can cause neck and shoulder pain, and can affect your breathing.

The experienced physical therapists have extensive training on evaluating and correcting postural alignment. They can help with posture by identifying where your limitations are and evaluating your flexibility and specific muscle weaknesses that could be contributing to poor postural alignment. They also investigate what may be causing postural malalignments by evaluating your postural strategies in sitting, standing, walking, sports, and functional activities. Focusing on ways to be in a more balanced position will help put less stress and tension through your musculature and joints allowing for increased ease in maintaining proper posture with various movements.

A good way to facilitate a more neutral shoulder blade and shoulder position is with the exercise “Pivot Prone” (Institute of Physical Art, Johnson and Johnson). To start, first turn your head to the right and then to the left. Notice the excursion of movement and if you find it to be difficult or limited. Now, shrug your shoulders up a few inches, rotate your arms back enough where your pinkies are pointing forward and your shoulder blades coming together. Once you feel that your shoulder blades are back relax your shoulder blades straight down. Now rotate your head again to the right and left and notice if there was a change. You should feel an increase in ease of movement and more range of motion. At this point you should be able to appreciate that when you are in a more neutral alignment there is less stress and tension around your shoulders and neck. A common mistake with this exercise is to want to lift your rib cage up when you bring your shoulder blades back, so make sure that the shoulder blades are the only things moving during this exercise in order to maintain a good vertical alignment.

This photo shows the pivot prone maneuver being done step by step 

This exercise is perfect and simple enough to do throughout the day. For example, when you are standing waiting for the train, waiting on line, and sitting at your desk at work or school. By continuously repeating this motion your body will eventually remember it, and down the line you should notice that you automatically will maintain that position!

 

Check out photos from BBPT’s recent inservice on functional mobilization of the shoulder!

 

PT In-Service: Alignment and Core Exercises

By Amy Stein

Our famous Dania Kafka, who is an amazing physical therapist and Pilates instructor, recently discussed alignment, posture and core exercises correctly at our latest PT In-Service. She helped us with proper cueing because we don’t want pelvic pain patients to utilize the pelvic floor muscles, or limit their use, with any core stabilization exercises. We went over how to gently engage the transverse abdominus, which is one of the core muscles and helps with pelvic and trunk stability. If this muscle is weak and the patient is overusing their pelvic floor, they can end up with pelvic pain. Core and trunk muscle imbalances can be one of many reasons a patient ends up with pelvic pain and/or pelvic weakness. Therefore, it is important to have a strong and balanced core. Dania proceeded to lead us through a series of transverse abdominus exercises that were adapted by Shirley Sahrmann, PT, and we incorporated diaphragmatic breathing with each exercise. We practiced neutral spine versus posterior pelvic tilt to compare the difference, and discussed with which populations we would use which position.

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With any pain condition, if there are active trigger points, tightened and/or shortened tissue, you need to address these impairments prior to strengthening these muscles. Otherwise you can exacerbate trigger points and continue to shorten tissues. It is essential to make sure these conditions are resolved prior to starting a core exercise to that specific area.

With regard to pelvic floor weakness, including incontinence and post surgical weakness (prostatectomy, prolapse, etc.), it is important to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles correctly and the transverse abdominus correctly, as well as the rest of the core muscles.

Monitoring each patient with each exercise, is essential for their recovery, in order not to worsen any condition. Starting slow and in a controlled environment is key.

If you have any questions with regard to Pilates and core exercises and when to introduce them for pelvic pain, or pelvic weakness, feel free to call us and ask for any of our PTs. Or, attend our upcoming Pelvic Health 101 this spring!