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Sitting for long periods of time has negative consequences on the shape of the spine and the placement of the bones. One such problem is called Anterior Pelvic Tilt.
What is Anterior Pelvic Tilt?
Anterior pelvic tilt is when the front of the pelvis drops and the back of the pelvis rises.
For many people, Anterior pelvic tilt is one of the major contributing factors to back pain. What happens is that from prolonged sitting, the front of the pelvis falls forward and the back of the pelvis rises in the body.
Some anterior pelvic tilt is natural in our body. Specifically, it is considered normal for males to have 4 to 7 degrees anterior pelvic tilt, and for females to have 7 to 10 degrees anterior pelvic tilt.
But problems start to arise when the pelvic tilt is more than that. With excessive anterior pelvic tilt, a person may start experiencing back pain and is more likely to experience a lumbar spinal injury.
That is because anterior pelvic tilt increases the arch curvature of the lumbar spine (lumbar spine is the bottom part of the spine). An excessively curved arch in the lumbar spine is unnatural and causes the compression of the space in between the vertebrae of the lumbar spine.
With so much compression in the lumbar spine, the spinal discs located in the lower spine are more likely to get squeezed out- which is also known as slipped disc. A person also has increased risk of pinched nerve and lumbar disc bulge.
Why Does Sitting Cause Anterior Pelvic Tilt?
Now I suppose you are wondering, why does sitting cause anterior pelvic tilt? The short answer is that sitting stretches and compresses certain muscles in the lower body, changing the tension of these muscles. When the tensions of the lower body muscles are imbalanced, a pelvic tilt can result. For anterior pelvic tilt, muscles called iliopsoas are involved.
So there are a group of muscles in the pelvis, the psoas major and iliacus muscle, that are together referred to as iliopsoas. The iliopsoas starts from the base of the pelvis and attaches to the upper part of the femur bone. The iliopsoas allows you to flex your legs at the hips.
The problem starts with prolonged sitting. When you sit down, the iliopsoas muscles are shortened. With chronic sitting, the iliopsoas muscles stay in the shortened position for a long time. The effect is that even when you stand up, you iliopsoas muscles stay slightly shorter than usual.
The body compensates by tilting the pelvis in the anterior direction. And although it doesn’t sound like a lot has changed, in terms of biomechanics an excessive pelvic tilt causes an inefficient distribution of weight through the pelvis that in turn puts a hug strain on the body- especially on the lumbar region of the spine or lower back.
Alternatives to Sitting
So after reading all of this information on how sitting can negatively impact your posture and spinal health, you are probably wondering what is the solution to preventing an anterior pelvic tilt. Well one solution is simply to invest in a standing desk. Another solution is to invest into an ergonomic chair.
There are also some good exercises you can do to correct the shortened hip flexor muscles:
But personally, I do believe varying up your body positions from standing to sitting while you work and taking breaks to get some exercise is the best solution. How far you can take that depends on you. But I do understand that excessive standing, just as excessive sitting, can cause the body problems. So you simply have to listen to your body. Our bodies are designed to move. Not to stick in one place. So take that into consideration.