The Swayback

What is SWAY BACK?

(figure 1) Swayback Ideal Posture

A swayback is an inappropriate curve usually in the upper lumbar spine. It is frequently the result of trying to “sit up straight,” or “stand up straight” in a sustained way.

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.

Sometimes it is the result of modern activities, most notably women’s gymnastics, women’s ice-skating, women’s ballet and misguided forms of yoga.

In other words, weak hip flexors (located at the front of your hip) and overly strong or tense hip extensors (the hamstrings, at the back of your hip and leg) may be at the root of this problem.

Tight upper abdominals, weak lower abdominals and weak mid-back muscles may also contribute to swayback.

Because weight in the abdominal region pulls the pelvis forward, pregnant women and extremely obese people who carry their weight in the abdominal area may be at a higher risk for swayback than many. Teenagers with "attitude" may express that attitude through a swayback posture.

What contributes to SWAY BACK?

Typically, sway back posture arises from a combination of these four factors:

  1. Weak abdominal muscles
  2. Tight hamstrings and back muscles
  3. Stiff spine and/or pelvis
  4. Ligaments laxity or over stretching of your back and pelvis


Correcting for a swayback means you will have to first properly assess the condition. Remember, as a massage therapist you should never diagnose, however visually assessing for short & tight muscles is in my opinion YOUR JOB. In future lessons we will have a video demonstrating a full assessment. You should also correct the four contributing factors:

  1. Massage & Stretch the the tight hamstrings and back muscles either through Deep Tissue Massage, Myofascial Release Techniques or PNF Stretching.


  1. Hamstrings
  2. Glutes
  3. Upper Abdominals

Note: Rounded Shoulders and Forward Head Posture is often times associated with this postural imbalance. See those treatment protocols later in this course for a full body treatment.

  1. Increasing the flexibility of the spinal joints with manual therapy techniques such as mobilisation or spinal manipulation to restore normal joint movements. This may require additional training if you are not versed in these modalities.
  2. Strengthening the abdominal muscles to better support the spine. (this you can not do, but you should make this suggestion to your client and refer them to a PT or Certified Trainer.)
  3. 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 instability 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.

Complete and Continue