Water Cooler: The importance of our hips and how they work

·3 min read

Jul. 23—Your hips aren't just for busting moves on the dance floor. They are essential for your body's mobility, from standing and balancing to bending, lifting, pivoting, stepping, jumping and many other movements. Hips also provide support for the organs and our spine. No matter your age, maintaining hip health is crucial for quality of life and overall physical health.

Hip problems can arise from a variety of factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, overuse or deterioration over time. Symptoms of hip pain can include pain or discomfort in a variety of areas such as in the knees, groin, buttocks and sometimes the lower back. To better understand how hip injuries can affect various parts of the body and your mobility, it is important to know a bit about the anatomy of the hip and how it functions.

The hip is a true ball and socket joint, with the ball of the femur (called the femoral head) resting inside the round hip socket (called the acetabulum). The head of the femur is connected to the greater trochanter, which is the portion of bone that juts out the side of your hip and serves as an important anchor for many important muscles.

Lining the ball and socket joint is rubbery, slippery articular cartilage which allows for motion with minimal friction and absorbs shock. Over the top of the ball and socket joint are soft tissue called ligaments which connect the femur to the pelvis.These ligaments form a joint capsule, which is the main source of stability in the hip as it restricts movement and holds the femoral head in place.

Moving further outward are the tendons, which connect the muscles to the hip. One infamous tendon you may be familiar with is the IT Band, or iliotibial band. It runs along the outside of the femur connecting the top of the pelvis to the knee. This is one of the reasons why poor hip health and a tight IT band can contribute to knee problems.

The hip is surrounded by large and important muscles. Around the back of the hip are the gluteus minimus, medius and maximus. This group of muscles extend to pull the thigh backward and out away from the other leg, as well as working to keep the hips level during activities that require shifting the weight from one leg to the other such as walking or running.

The adductor muscles are found on the inside of the thigh and they serve to pull the leg inward. The muscle which attaches at the lower spine and runs through the inside of the pelvis, as well as muscles that attach the femur and knee to the pelvis, work to flex the hip and pull the leg to toward the torso.

There are also a group of small muscles called the external rotators which attach the back of the pelvis to the back of the upper femur to facilitate outward rotation of the leg. The hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh attach the lower back pelvis to the back of the knee and serve to extend the hip and pull the leg backwards.

There are also important nerves and blood vessels which travel through the hip to the lower body. The most well-known nerve is the sciatic nerve, which is a common source of lower body pain.

When it comes to hip function, there are many elements at play. Regular exercise that builds strength and promotes mobility is essential for the longevity of hip health. Exercises that practice and build balance can help prevent falls and trips, which are a huge contributor to hip injury.

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