The short answer is yes.
The word “sashay” by definition is “to walk in an ostentatious yet casual manner, typically with exaggerated movements of the hips and shoulders.” The sashay brings to mind images of models walking down runways, divas “strutting their stuff,” and the general positive connotation of female confidence.
As empowering and popular as the sashay is, from a mechanical standpoint I have to wonder how safe this walking style is for long-term lower back health, especially when this walking style is either forced or learned.
Take a minute to think about what happens to the lower half of the body when the pelvis is abruptly over-shifted from side to side (see the illustrations). In the illustration on the left, we see a more normal mechanical walking style. The pelvis is kept in a relatively horizontal position with the assistance of the muscles on the outer portion of the hip. The vertebrae gently both rotate and side-bend in order to provide range for the leg to advance forward.
The illustration on the right side shows what will often occur with a sashay. The pelvis is forced too far to the side, and the hip abductor muscle seen in the illustration is forced into a lengthened and thus a stressed position. The pelvis also tips up to one side excessively, which places increased stress on the segments of the lower back as they are forced to side-bend and rotate more than normal.
If a sashay is practiced over a long period of time, it is more likely that the spinal segments of the lower back will “wear out” more quickly than expected. Chronic muscle weakness of the hip muscles mentioned above can also contribute to hip pain, chronic lower back pain, and even disc herniation.
Strengthening the abdominals, hip abductors, and buttocks are always part of a successful treatment program for sashay patients who are experiencing lower back pain.
What is more important for these patients, however, is that the poor walking mechanics are controlled. Patients who sashay need to be taught how to “walk quietly.” For example, I will often have patients place their hands on pelvic landmarks while they walk in order for them to get an idea of just how much lateral movement is occurring as they walk. Gently contracting the deep abdominals by drawing the belly button towards the spine tends to have a stabilizing effect. These exercises and techniques need to be practiced long term so that they eventually become second nature!