I love my hips. I’ve never had a bad relationship with them. I have never had any chronic pain as an adult. I do recollect deep groin pain as a youth in ballet class. In any case, I care about my hips and want to keep them in the best shape possible. Without their health, I know my life would be significantly impacted. I want to stay ahead and not get behind in their abilities.
My hips are not symmetrical. They move differently. I’ve gotten to know them well through years of dance and physical activity. They are twins but with unique personalities. I don’t love one more than the other. They have their individual strengths and relative weaknesses (credit: wise yoga instructor).
Lately, I have had some knee cap pain. While I am recovering from my knee dysfunction I have placed a special emphasis on knee and hip strengthening because they are kind of best friends. Can’t treat one without the other. They are intricately connected and when one suffers they tend to commiserate together. Maybe not overtly to the untrained eye. You have to look for it. And sometimes not.
Why hips are important
Back to our star pupil. The “biggest” joint in the body. Lost in the depths of the body but not forgotten. Buried in mystery and sometimes esoteric associations. We are obsessed with our “hips” for lack of a better term. It includes the hip joint proper(the ball and socket), housed in our pelvis and all of the musculature surrounding it. Together they act as a fulcrum connecting the upper and lower body folding us in half. Unilaterally, they balance our torso via the pelvis, allowing us to translate ourselves from point A to B.
When you think about what happens when we walk, its pretty complicated. The hips are a major component in the balancing act of walking, alternately suspending ourselves on one limb at a time, propelling ourselves forward, backward or side to side. Through our connection with the ground we generate forces that move our bodies in the direction we choose. We would have a very hard time doing this with out the health of our hips.
Taking the mystery out of hip pain and joint imbalances
What happens when the hip joint is unbalanced? The balance of the ball and socket and all of the muscles surrounding them, both deep and superficial, sometimes seems too complex to decipher. When the hips are unbalanced we may shift unintentionally in the wrong direction which then requires even more energy to redirect our momentum. We create alternate strategies that overtime may be even more detrimental to our posture and mechanics.
It’s a special joint that gets a lot of attention. Rightly so. When the hip is unwell there can be a chain effect upwards towards our spine and downwards towards the soles of our feet.
So given our apparent focus on our hips, why the mystery? There are several popular hip muscles that are frequently associated with having great importance. Just as frequently, these muscles are labelled as critical links that once uncovered will reveal the solutions to all of our problems. The ones that come to mind are psoas, gluteus medius and piriformis. Hamstrings and gluteus maximus? For some reason they don’t get the spotlight. I guess they are boring and too obvious. The reality is that we need every part of our hip musculature to work in optimal lengths with optimal strengths, and we need them to be in use on a daily basis.
When I am trying to figure out a hip problem, I look for the “gross” imbalances. Front versus back. Side versus inside. Deep fine tuners versus superficial power houses. Some groups of muscles become more dominant than the other because of habitual postures and repetitive activities. It could be that our exercise program is a little biased and doesn’t “round out” our hips’ basic needs.
The pelvic floor and hip joint stability
There are also hip joint muscles that are very closely associated with the pelvic floor. Dysfunction in one area may affect the other. Maybe we consider the hips to be so precious because of their proximity to our sexual organs. The hips’ close association with the back can also make the pain picture sometimes confusing.
But the hips are not fragile unless you have osteopenia or osteoporosis or another bony pathological condition. They are required to take on a significant load and when injured often require extensive retraining to restore the normal length and strength of the musculature. We often need to re-learn how to stabilize the pelvis on the femur via the hip joint. There are rarely any quick fixes involving a single muscle that will ultimately eliminate hip pain or restore ideal function.
Keeping our hips healthy.
Keeping our hips healthy should be a focal point of everyone’s day. And one simple way is too get off of your buttocks and stop sitting for prolonged periods. We have all heard about how our sedentary lifestyles which involve prolonged sitting have replaced cigarette smoking as a major lifestyle factor that is detrimental to our overall health.
A great suggestion is to get out if you chair every 20 minutes. Set a timer so you won’t forget. Stand up and straighten your hips. Get them out of that passive folded position. Take a short walk around your space. Walk forwards, backwards and sideways if you can. Tighten your glutes and remember that they should not feel anything like pancakes i.e. flat and soft.
So, love your hips. Don’t leave them unattended. Intend to keep them in shape and they will thank you by keeping you moving with ease and accuracy. Love thy hips as they are incredible and special joints. Keep things simple by giving them what they need on a regular basis. If you are not sure, find someone to help you figure it out. Don’t give up on them. They are worth the consistent time and the effort to keep them lubricated, flexible and strong.
Upward (from the chair)
and onward (propelling yourself through space)!