What’s a Lateral Pelvic Tilt and Why Does it Matter?

Do your hips hurt? What about your low back? Uneven hips, known in the medical community as having a “lateral pelvic tilt,” happen when one hip sits higher than the other one. While some people have a true, diagnosed leg length discrepancy (structural), often hip asymmetry is due to poor posture, body awareness, or mindfulness around how you hold and move your body. While it’s not always the case, uneven hips can also be a sign of scoliosis. Before you think you have scoliosis though (don’t jump to conclusions just yet) be sure to continue reading.

Most people have uneven hips because they function in a way that puts uneven pressure on their pelvis. This is often due to poor posture, lifting incorrectly in the gym, or doing a repetitive motion that doesn’t support proper posture, such as carrying a purse or heavy bag on one shoulder, favoring one leg over the other, or leaning into one hip while standing or sitting. Can you see how fixing your posture is the first step to healthy hips?

How Do Uneven Hips Affect Your Posture?

Uneven hips throw everything off. That pelvis of yours affects your posture, how you walk, how you sit, and how you move. If you have low back pain, this might be a culprit as well. Since the bottom of your spine is the foundation for your sacrum, uneven hips can cause low back pain if your core muscles or spine stabilizing muscles must overcompensate for an imbalance.

You may have a hip hike, when one hip is higher than the other, or a hip drop, when one hip is lower than the other. For you anatomy nerds out there, your pelvis will hip hike if you have a weak glute medius, tight Quadratus Lumborum (QL for short), and tight adductors. Your pelvis will hip drop if you have a tight glute medius, weak QL, and weak adductors.

Alright, So What Should Healthy Hips Look Like?

We’d recommend getting in front of a mirror for this one to check out your posture. Here’s what healthy hips look like: 

  • Your pelvis should be parallel to the ground.
  • Your hips should be in a neutral position (not tilted forward or backwards).
  • Your hips should be level (one shouldn’t be higher than the other).

Take a look at this before and after image to see the differences between uneven hips and healthy hips. The first image was taken before Zee (shown below) started the MoveU program and the second image was taken after. Wow, right?

Causes of Uneven Hips

According to the Spine Institute of North America, many people will go through much of their life without noticing a minor hip imbalance although this can worsen if you don’t stretch and strengthen your hips and the muscles that support them. Uneven hips that start to cause pain, affect your ability to function in everyday life, and lead to low back pain as well as more muscular imbalances, well that’s another story. If that’s you, head to our MoveU program to learn how to fix your posture, strengthen your muscles, and, ultimately, reduce the pain you’re experiencing. 

There are many causes of uneven hips (remember everything in your body is interconnected), which include the following: 

  • Scoliosis.
  • Difference in the length of your legs.
  • Poor posture (causes your muscles to shorten).
  • Fallen arches in your feet.
  • Muscular differences.

How to Know if You Have Uneven Hips

If standing in front of a mirror to see if you have uneven hips didn’t quite work for you, try one of these tests: 

Trendelenburg Gait

Stand in front of a mirror or have a friend take a video of you. Lift one leg so your knee and foot are parallel to the floor and hold that pose for 30 seconds. Then repeat this motion on your other leg. If your pelvis tilted downwards instead of upwards on the non-weight bearing leg (or lifted leg), then this could be a sign that there’s a hip abductor weakness, which can result in uneven hips.

Squat Test

For this test, you’re going to want to perform a squat. You’re going to look for hip shifts while doing this. Either squat in front of a mirror or have a friend film you and look at your hips when you come up from the bottom of your squat. You may shift towards your stronger hip, which is a sign that you have a strength imbalance.

How Do You Fix Uneven Hips Naturally?

To fix your uneven hips naturally, you will want to learn both strength exercises, to help build up weak structures, and stretches, to mobilize tight structures. 

Exercises for Uneven Hips

If you’re hip hiking, you want to do single leg exercises on your weaker side. These exercises might include step ups/step downs on a box, single leg lunges, and single leg balancing movements. Here’s one of our favorite ways to improve hip mobility and strengthen your glute muscles: 

The Clamshell

  • Lie down on one side with both legs bent at a 90-degree angle. You can use your arm to support your head and neck.
  • Lift your top knee while keeping your feet together.
  • Hold for 5 seconds and then lower your knee.
  • Repeat for 8-12 repetitions.
  • Be sure not to roll back, keep hips squared.
  • Switch sides.

Stretches for Uneven Hips

Here are some stretches you can do to reduce tightness in the areas that support your hips and pelvis: 

Hamstring stretch 

  • Lie down on your back with your legs out.
  • Place a strap around your left foot and lift your left leg up towards the ceiling.
  • Pull slightly on the strap until you feel a stretch in your hamstring and hold for about 30 seconds,
  • Switch sides.

90/90 stretch 

  • From seated, bring your right leg in front leg in front of you with your hip externally rotated and your knee bent at 90 degrees. Knee should be directly in front of hip and foot should be perpendicular to knee.
  • Bend your left knee to 90-degrees to the side with your hip internally rotated. Again, knee should be straight out (or even a bit behind) hip and foot should be perpendicular to knee.
  • Square your shoulders over your right leg.
  • To go deeper, lean your chest forward without losing your connection to the floor.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Supine Hip Flexor Stretch

  • Lie down on your back on the right edge of a massage table or bed with both of your legs extended out.
  • Bend your left knee keeping your foot on the table or bed and let your right leg hang off the side of the table/bed.
  • Bend your left knee back as far as you can.
  • To get deeper, grab your left knee and guide it towards your chest.
  • Repeat on the other side.

To fix your hips for good, be sure to head on over to the MoveU program to learn how to strengthen your hips and fix uneven hips.