Our hips boast the inclusion of one of the largest muscles in the human body. But what functions do the smaller muscles in the hip play? And what impact can these have on other areas of the body?
The muscles of the hip comprise of:
- Gluteal muscles (Minimus, Medius & Maximus)
- Deep hip rotators (Piriformis, Quadratus Femoris, Obturator Internus / Externus & Gamellaie)
- Adductors (Psoas, Iliacus, Pectineus, Gracilis, Adductor Longus / Brevis / Magnus)
- Tensor Fasciae Latae
These muscles operate to achieve three different pairs of principal directions of movement:
- Flexion & Extension (moving the leg forward & backward)
- Internal & external rotation (turning the legs in & out)
- Abduction & adduction (moving the leg out to the side & back again)
In addition, these directions can combine to produce circumduction (cone-like circular movement of the hip).
The rounded head of the femur and the cup-like acetabulum of the pelvis forms the hip joint. This ball and socket joint links the lower limb to the rest of the body. The hip's primary function is to support the weight of the body, both whilst moving and standing still. They also maintain one of the most important elements of posture and balance, the pelvic inclination angle (the angle the pelvis sits at in relation to the spine).
The large muscles in the hips impact on the spine depending on what state they are in. The Psoas, a muscle in the front of the hip, attaches into the spine and, if tight, can cause lower back pain and postural issues. The Gluteal muscles at the back of this hip, and the Tensor Fasciae Latte on the outside of the hip, can also tighten and cause similar symptoms for different reasons. Alongside strengthening, Pilates works with stretch and release techniques in order to keep the hips functioning correctly without impeding other areas.
In addition, there are also smaller muscles deep in the hip, which need to be considered when setting a balanced exercise program. Pilates exercises these areas extensively by incorporating internal and external rotation in a neutral position, and when working with extension, flexion adduction and abduction of the hip. This, combined with strengthening the deeper muscles of the core, helps to stabilise the lower back and pelvis, assisting us in keeping the hips exercised and healthy whilst considering the impact elsewhere.
In 2013, the NHS performed just over 66,000 hip procedures in England and Wales. To quote Tom Cruise in Cameron Crowe's 1996 comedy-sports drama Jerry McGuire "Help me...to help you". Being proactive with an exercise program that works to maintain range of motion, stability and flexibility is a great use of time and effort that will pay dividends as we age. And we can feel good about reducing the strain and dependence on our flailing National Health Service.