What Is Pelvic Tilt?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on October 13, 2022
5 min read

A pelvic tilt is a common postural abnormality that happens when your pelvic muscles lean too much toward one side. This deficiency typically develops when your pelvic muscles stay in one position for extended periods. For example, slumping on your couch or sitting in an uncomfortable office chair for hours can cause your pelvic muscles to adjust to these positions. The adapted muscles can alter your range of motion. 

If you've developed a pelvic tilt, you can solve this problem through targeted exercises. Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this postural deficiency.

The pelvis plays an essential role in the human body. This region distributes your weight to the lower limbs, enabling movement. It also helps hold the abdominal organs in place. 

Ideally, your pelvis should remain in a neutral position when resting, without leaning forward or backward. You can develop a pelvic tilt when the pelvic muscles get overstretched or underworked, causing them to pull in one direction. There are two common types of pelvic tilts. 

Anterior pelvic tilt. This condition happens when your hip flexor muscles shorten after being stuck in a seated position for long periods. These taut muscles pull the pelvis down into an anterior, or forward, tilt. 

Posterior pelvic tilt. This deficiency happens when the hip extensors shorten, causing your pelvis to tilt back. Posterior pelvic tilt can cause lower back pain.

Both anterior and posterior tilts can negatively impact your health. Nearby muscles will adapt to accommodate the pelvic postural deficiency in a process called reciprocal inhibition. These changes can cause a domino effect of postural abnormalities and related health problems, like: 

  • Back pain. An anterior or posterior pelvic tilt alters how the pelvic muscles pull on your spine, causing your lower back to curve excessively inward or outward. This curve places unnatural pressure on your spine. As a result, you may experience aches and pain in your lower back. 
  • Overstretched hamstrings. An anterior pelvic tilt weakens your gluteus muscles, forcing your hamstrings to tighten as they work extra hard. Tight hamstrings can lead to hamstring sprain. This painful condition occurs when the muscles overload and tear. 
  • Stomach bulge. An anterior pelvic tilt causes your stomach to protrude forward, weakening the abdominal muscles over time. Your stomach may also appear fatter.

Weakened muscles caused by pelvic tilt can reduce your overall fitness. They may also contribute to improper posture when exercising, potentially leading to injury.

Common pelvic tilt causes include:

  • A sedentary lifestyle 
  • Too much time spent in a seated position at work, in front of the TV, or while commuting 
  • Long periods spent in a lounging position
  • Poor posture 

Many people develop a pelvic tilt due to prolonged sedentary behavior. One recent study reported that 26.9% of American adults spend more than four hours a day sitting, and 19.7% sit for more than eight hours a day. Long periods of sitting can contribute to pelvic tilt and other posture issues.

You may notice several pelvic tilt symptoms, like: 

  • Femoroacetabular impingement. This condition happens when repetitive use damages the ball of the femoral socket in your hip, causing pain when moving the joint.  
  • Lower back pain. You may feel aches, pain, or stabbing sensations in your back between your rib cage and your pelvis. These pains may appear more frequently during strenuous activities, like exercising or lifting heavy objects. 
  • Sacroiliac joint pain. The lower back has two sacroiliac joints. Inflammation in these joints can cause pain that may spread from your lower back to your buttocks, groin, thighs, and upper back.

In some cases, pelvic tilt can also cause nonspecific pain in your groin.

If you experience sudden or severe pain in your back or joints, seek treatment from a medical professional.

Health care providers can use several methods for pelvic tilt diagnosis.

One common approach is visual analysis. During this assessment, the patient stands in a relaxed stance while a clinician visually examines them from the side. The clinician will draw an imaginary line between the anterior superior iliac spine and the posterior superior iliac spine to determine the degree of pelvic tilt. But no studies have evaluated the accuracy of visual analysis of pelvic tilt. 

Other diagnostic tools for pelvic tilt include:  

  • A caliper-based inclinometer, which measures the angle of slope in the pelvis 
  • A hand-held inclinometer
  • Radiographic analysis 
  • A smartphone application that functions like an inclinometer 

Currently, inclinometers and smartphone applications provide the most reliable measures of pelvic tilt. Doctors may use radiographic imaging when planning surgeries to repair pelvic tilt.

Pelvic tilt treatment can involve surgical or nonsurgical treatments. Adult deformity surgery can help correct pelvic tilt using minimally invasive surgical techniques. 

Pelvic tilt exercises can also improve muscle strength and return your pelvis to a neutral position. Many of these exercises require an inexpensive foam roller to help stretch muscles. 

Recommended exercises to address a posterior pelvic tilt include:

  • Floor cobra. This muscle strengthens the erector spinae muscles in your back. Lie face down on a comfortable surface with your toes pointed and your face elevated from the mat. Then lift your arms off the ground and squeeze your glutes. 
  • Foam roll. Sit on the ground with a foam roller tucked under your glutes. Slowly roll back until the foam roller is under your knee to stretch your hamstrings. Hold the position for 30 seconds to 2 minutes as the muscle relaxes. 

You can also do exercises to help repair an anterior pelvic tilt, like:  

  • Foam roll hip flexors. Lie face down and position your foam roller under your quad muscles. Move your body forward so that the roller moves up to your hips. Hold your pose for 30 seconds to 2 minutes when you feel tension in your hips.  
  • Hip flexor stretch. Kneel and bend one leg in front of you at a 90° angle. Tuck your hips under your body to stretch the front of your hip. For a more intense stretch, tuck the toes of your back foot. Switch to the other side after 30 seconds to 1 minute. 

Regularly performing these exercises and reducing the time that you spend sitting can help you keep your pelvis in top shape. Addressing pelvic tilt can improve your overall posture and prevent symptoms like lower back pain.