Sway Back No More
Do you stand or walk like a limbo rocker? If yes, you may have sway back. Apart from slouching, sway back is another common bad posture that leads to back pain. Like most posture problems, it is easily correctable by treating and preventing its contributing factors.
What is Sway Back?
Sway back is almost the opposite of slouching forward. Instead of leaning forward, the chest is almost leaning backwards, with the shoulder behind the hips and the chin sticking out.
What Contributes To Sway Back?
Typically, sway back posture arise from a combination of these four factors:
- Weak abdominal muscles
- Tight hamstrings and back muscles
- Stiff spine and/or pelvis
- Ligaments laxity or overstretching of your back and pelvis
One of the basic functions of abdominal muscles is to pull the upper part of the body forward, like when you do sit-ups. When they are weak, they are unable to pull the spine forward enough to a straight or neutral position.
As with most bad postures, the back muscles tend to work harder than they should, causing them to tighten up. In this case, the back muscles and hamstrings tigthen up, pulling the back of the legs and upper back towards the buttocks. Over time, this causes the sway back posture to become more pronounced. Sway back is not an optimal posture; the weight borne by the spine is not evenly distributed. Instead, joints and ligaments are strained with additional weight. Strained joints stiffen up up over time. Making it difficult for them to return to their neutral, relaxed position even when no weight is bearing down on them. Ligaments, on the other hand, when strained over time become stretched. When the ligaments are loose, the spinal column becomes ‘loose’ and less stable.
Perversely, it makes for sense for the body to return to the sway back position and rest on the joints as it is more stable, although bad in the long run. These four contributing factors that disturb the stability of the spine can cause the lower back to be more susceptible to injuries.
Correcting back pains as a result of sway essentially requires us to treat and correct the four contributing factors.
- Strengthening the abdominal muscles to better support the spine.
- Release the the tight hamstrings and back muscles muscles either through deep tissue massage or myofascial release.
- Increasing the flexiblity of the spinal joints with manual therapy techniques such as mobilisation or spinal manipulation to restore normal joint movements.
- Unfortunately, nothing can be done to ‘un-stretch’ ligaments. Ligaments are very tough tissues that don’t stretch to hold bones together and don’t bounce back when stretched. To compensate for the instablity caused by the loose ligaments, specific spinal muscles have to be trained to better support the spine. These are your postural muscles found deep within the body.
Like with most body pains, it would have been better if we never had to fix it in the first place. We can prevent sway back with the four simple tips below.
- Good posture – Having a good posture by being conscious of your body. Tuck in your chin, stand up tall without slouching, your shoulder should be aligned with the hip to prevent excessive back arching. And lastly. stand evenly on both feet.
- Abdominal muscles (Rectus Abdominis) strengthening – It is important to start training your Rectus Abdominis muscles to better support your spine, relieving strain off the spinal joints, ligaments and back muscles.It can be done with a simple exercise at home – Lie face up, bend both of your knees and hips on a firm surface. Rock your pelvis towards forward and upward and feel your lower back flattening on the firm surface. Hold in the position for 5 seconds then relax, then repeat this exercise for 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Hamstring stretch – Lie face up. Straighten the knee. Hook a towel around the leg near the ankle and pull the leg gently towards the body. Feel the stretch at the back of the thigh and hold it for 20-30 seconds. Repeat it for 3 sets.
- Back muscles stretch – Lie face up and with your knees bent. Twist your body to the side and feel the stretch on your back. If you cannot feel the stretch, turn the knees to the opposite side. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat it on the other side and continue for another 3 sets.