Hips Muscles, Structure and Function

Sitting, standing, stretching, walking, running, dancing—every single lower body movement relies on your hips in some way. Your hips are the centre of the body’s locomotion, and taking good care of them is imperative.

“How do I take good care of my hips?” To answer this question, let us gain an understanding of hip anatomy.

What are the hips?

The hip is, first and foremost, a joint. Joints are points where two bones fit together, enabling movement.

Human hips are ball-and-socket joints. Think of it as a hinge: one bone has a spherical surface that fits nicely into a rounded “hole” located on the surface of the second bone, just like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The spherical shape of the first bone is what enables flexibility and range of motion. In the hips, the femur bone forms the “ball”, while the pelvic bone forms the “socket”.

A visualisation of the general construction of a ball and socket joint. Source: https://www.twinkl.com.eg/illustration/ball-and-socket-joint

The “ball” of the femur and the “socket” of the pelvis are lined with a material known as cartilage. Cartilage is soft and smooth, reducing friction between the femur and pelvis and absorbing shock sustained from movement in the area (think high-impact exercises such as running or jumping).

Connecting the “ball” to the “socket” are strong ligaments. Tendons connect both bones to surrounding muscles, enabling that area of the body to move when the hips generate locomotion. These muscles include the quadriceps (front of thigh), gluteal muscles (buttocks) and hamstrings (back of thigh), and provide extra support to the hips.

Hip function

Your hips are designed to be strong and flexible: it has to be able to bear the weight of the body and allow for movements such as walking and bending. The hip is able to support three main types of movement.

Hip flexion and extension refers to the act of moving the leg back and forth. For example, when running, the act of bringing your thighs forward is a flexion, while a backward movement is an extension. These movements are supported by the quadriceps, glutes and adductor magnus (inner thigh) muscles; exercises that involve extensions and flexions include swimming, jumping and squats.

Hip abduction and adduction occurs when you move your hips outwards to the side (abduction) and inwards towards the other leg (adduction), in the same way that a pendulum oscillates from side-to-side. Abduction and adduction are crucial for practicing balance and stability; this is especially so when performing exercises such as side-planks or jumping jacks. They involve the use of the inner thighs and hip abductor muscles in the glutes. Unfortunately, due to the modern-day sedentary lifestyle, these muscles do not see much action, so exercises are key to keeping them well-oiled, flexible and mobile.

Finally, rotation is enabled by abduction and adduction movements. There are two types of rotations: external and internal rotation. The former occurs when you twist your leg outwards (externally) and away from your body; to perform the movement, your hip joint twists inward so that your leg can twist outward. The latter is the opposite: twisting your leg into your body (internally) requires the hip joint to twist outward to accommodate the movement. To support the rotations, your outer hip, upper buttock, inner thigh and upper frontal thigh work together to activate movement.

A visualisation of internal and external hip rotations. Source: https://fpnotebook.com/_media/OrthoHipRomIntRotAndExtRot.jpg

Taking care of your hips

Now that you understand how the hips work, it is apparent that the best way to take care of your hips is to strengthen and condition them.

Here are some exercises that are beneficial to your hips:

If you would like tailored advice on how to take better care of your hips, or would like to know what exercises are suitable for you should you have any hip conditions, take a look at our next post—hip injuries and treatments! To schedule your first chiropractor visit or get some chiropractic adjustments done, you may also call us at 62084669 or drop us an email wecare@mychirocare.sg. Our chiropractic clinic is located in Sengkang. Stay tuned!