What’s It Going to Take to Have Healthy Hips?
By Dr. Molly Casey
Hips play an important role in the health and movement of the body, likely far beyond what you realize. Keeping your hip joints healthy is an important part of an active healthy lifestyle. They are often overlooked until they are already causing you problems. Focusing on hip flexibility and strength before issues arise can keep you active longer and generally more mobile and agile.
Hip Joint and Function
What many people consider their hips is not the actual hip joint. People frequently lay their hands on the top of the bones around the beltline and call those the hips, but those are not the hips. The hips are located where the femur (thigh bone) meets the ilium (pelvis). So the actual hip is down and to the side of what most think.
The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. The top of the femur is shaped like a ball, and the ilium has a socket called the acetabulum where the head (ball) of the femur sits. The socket is lined with a cartilage-type tissue called labrum which helps with proper gliding motion, and there are ligaments attaching the bones together. There are numerous muscles that assist with the hip joint motion.
When properly functioning, this joint provides a lot of motion and mobility. The hip joint motions include:
- Flexion/Extension - Bringing the thigh up toward the chest/moving the thigh behind the body or away from the chest
- Rotating - Turning the thigh and leg in/out)
- Adduction/Abduction - Bring the thigh in/out to the sides
- Circumduction - Circular motion of thigh/leg
Healthy Hips for a Healthy Life
While a properly functioning hip joint provides the body a great deal of mobility and helps you in many activities of daily living, a limited or improper functioning hip joint can significantly limit your ability to move well and feel good. Because society is largely sedentary with hours of sitting for many, carrying extra weight, and poor posture, decreased hip joint flexibility is extremely common. When hips lose flexibility they also begin to weaken.
There are things you can do to help maintain your hip health.
Hip flexibility - A regular routine of stretching the hips is an important part of keeping your body optimally functioning, mobile, and out of pain. Because there are so many muscles involved, you could literally spend hours daily stretching the hips, but that is just not feasible for most -- including me. However, I always pay attention to stretching the one main hip flexor, which is the iliopsoas (check out this video here) and stretching the external rotators (with this video). The pigeon pose combines both (check out this video if you want to get two stretches for the price of one).
Hip strength - Chronically tight muscles become weak. Simple exercises that activate and properly use the hip muscles are important in keeping the health of the joint. The clamshell exercise is used to engage the glutes and keep the hip joint healthy (check it out here). The glute bridge is important to help activate and strengthen the glute muscles, thus ultimately helping hip health.
Foam rolling - Spend 5-10 minutes a few times a week to roll out the front of your thighs, the back of your thighs, the inside of your thighs, and the outside of the thigh. Although this is often painful, with sustained consistency the pain will decrease and you’ll likely notice improvements in flexibility and motion.
Chiropractic - Even healthy hip joints take a beating because they are helping to support the weight of the body and to keep you moving. Chiropractors can manipulate the hip joint to restore any fixations and assure the joint keeps moving to the best of its ability. If you have hip issues, get in for a chiropractic evaluation; if you receive regular chiropractic adjustments, ask your doctor to check out the hip mobility and manipulate if necessary. Let chiropractic help you and your hips.
Keep your hips healthy and enjoy a longer, more active life. Healthy hips will support you in your health journey, your daily life, and your ability to do what you want in your body!
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