Sway Posture: Standing Posture & Load Across the Hip and Back

What is Sway Posture?

Sway posture is a term that relates to a certain type of standing posture where people tend to lock their knees in and throw their hips too far forward.  This is a very easy way for some people to stand, but it may be that this standing posture might not be the best for you or your pain.

Is There a Perfect Standing Posture?

There is no one ‘perfect posture’ and too often people are made to feel overly self-conscious and worried about the way they stand. In an effort to maintain such a perfect posture, excessive muscle tension can develop, which in turn may contribute to pain and fatigue. 

We are, however, all slaves to gravity and where and how we hold our bodies will influence the way gravitational forces are absorbed and shared by our bones, joints and muscles. Human beings evolved some very energy efficient strategies for resisting the forces of gravity in upright standing. If the spine and bones of the pelvis and legs are relatively vertically aligned, passive structures such as bones and ligaments absorb most of the gravitational load. This means that the amount of energy expended by muscles is relatively low.  

Energy Efficient Standing Posture, good standing posture
Energy Efficient Standing Posture

Why Might My Standing Posture known as “Sway Posture” Affect My Pain

Substantial shifts in the relative alignment of the body parts will ultimately effect efficiency and where load is absorbed.

A common habitual posture is one in which the hip and pelvis is translated forward relative to the line between the ankle and the shoulder (see picture below) often a standing posture know and described as “sway posture”.

The line of gravity now falls behind the hip joint, resulting in a forward that increases load at the front of the hip. The muscles, tendons and ligaments at the front of the hip and/or pelvis will be exposed to greater stretching loads, while the lower back is relatively more compressed. In order to resist gravity now, higher muscle activity around the front of the thighs and hips and at the back of the lower legs, in the calves, is usually needed.

This posture is then not so efficient and enough time spent in such postures may over time contribute to fatigue, overload and ultimately pain at the front of the hip and/or in the lower back. 

Sway Posture: Less Energy Efficient Posture, Which If Used Frequently, May Contribute to Hip and Back Pain and Fatigue
Sway Posture: Less Energy Efficient Posture, Which If Used Frequently, May Contribute to Hip and Back Pain and Fatigue

Ways to Improve Your Standing Posture if you have a “Sway Posture”

Simple tips to improve energy efficiency and reduce hip and back pain in standing posture:

  1. Think tall (Gently elongate your body, taking the crown of the head towards the sky) 
  2. Draw the pelvis back over the ankles, so the shoulders, hips, and ankles are in a more vertical alignment 
  3. Shift the weight from the balls of the feet, more towards the heels
    (This should happen automatically with the first 2 tips) 
  4. Achieve a relaxed, tall, balanced posture without consciously gripping any muscles – remember we are aiming for an energy-efficient posture! 

How to Change Your Standing Posture to Improve Your Sway Posture: check out this easy to follow short video clip. 

sway posture: is this standing posture relevant to you and your back or hip pain
  • Assess whether your standing posture is likely to be contributing to your hip or back pain 
  • Help with cues that work best for you, in achieving a low load, energy efficient posture 
  • Address any associated muscle weakness or tightness 


Search for a Hip Pain Professional near you

Kirsty McNabDr. Alison Grimaldi


This blog was written by Dr Alison Grimaldi and Kirsty McNab, physiotherapists who have over 50 years of combined professional clinical experience, dealing with patients suffering from a wide range of hip and pelvic conditions.

Dr. Alison Grimaldi BPhty, MPhty(Sports), PhD is Practice Principal of Physiotec Physiotherapy, an Australian Sports Physiotherapist and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, author and global educator.

Kirsty McNab BSc Hons, MPhty(Sports), is Practice Principal of Physiologix and a highly experienced Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist having worked extensively with elite athletes, the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia, and Tennis Australia.

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Check Out More You Can Read on this Area at HipPainHelp:

Causes, Effects & Exercises for Lordosis to Reduce Hip and Back Pain:  In this blog we will explain what exactly lordotic posture is, why it occurs, the effects it may have and in looking at exercise for lordosis, what may be best.

Are You A Hip-Hanger? Ideas on How Not to Stand for Hip Pain Relief:  Prolonged hip-hanging may contribute to certain types of hip pain – learn why. There may be better ways to stand for hip pain relief.

What is the Best Good Posture for Hip Pain Relief: The tricky thing here is that there is no single ‘good posture’ and certainly no single good posture for hip pain relief.

Understanding Pain: What is Pain? What is Pain? Pain is an experience that the brain creates for the purposes of stimulating you to change your behaviour or seek help for a perceived problem with your body. Learn more here.

How Do I Find The Right Hip Pain Professional? Looking to figure out the right hip pain professional for you and your situation. Learn which type of professional may be best.

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