All about the hip joint:
Understanding hip joint anatomy, how to use it, feel it and keep it healthy and lubricated
Published: 2020 01 17
Updated: 2020 01 31
Keeping your hip joints lubricated, and healthy, may not be that difficult if you understand how your hip muscles work, how you can learn to feel your hip muscles (so that you know that they are working) and, how your hip joints are kept lubricated in the first place.
Note that knowing how your hip joints are lubricated isn't just important as a matter of interest. It's important because if you understand how your hips are lubricated, and it's pretty simple, you can take the necessary steps to help keep them lubricated. And that means longer lasting hips, and the chance to avoid hip replacement surgery.
It's also an important point when dealing with hip pain. The assumption here is that hip pain is a result of your brain trying to keep your hip joint (and other joints) safe. I'm giving away the game here, but muscle control is a key component of hip joint lubrication (and joint lubrication in general), particularly when the hips are under load.
An interesting point is that for the people building replacement hips, lubrication is an important question also. The better they can keep an artificial hip lubricated, the longer it lasts. So you gotta figure, if lubrication is important with an artificial hip, it's going to be important for the hip joints you are born with.
The hip joint Index
The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. Because we spend a lot of time standing, or using our legs to locomote, our hips have to withstand a lot of force. Lifting weights or doing things like running places even more stress on our hip joints, subjecting them to greater peak forces.
A good question to ask is: how is the hip joint lubricated? How does it stay lubricated when subjected to forces of varying magnitude?
I've tried to answer that question in keeping your hip joints lubricated. Note that lubrication isn't just important for the hip joints. This article talks about lubrication in general (biotribology), the three main types of lubrication and how you can go about keeping your hip joints and any other synovial joint, lubricated, healthy and long lasting.
What I know about getting the hip replaced
Why worry about keeping your hip joints lubricated? If your hip joints aren't kept lubricated they will fail. And then you'll probably have to get your hip joint replaced. Here's what I know about getting a hip joint replaced.
Even if you live in a country where getting your hips replaced is easy (even if you have to wait a while), it's a painful process, you might have to get someone to wipe your bum for you for a few days after the operation, and then, even if your lower back feels better (because it was sore because of your bad hip) you still have to get over the fact that you've had major surgery. And that hip will wear out over time, and have to be replaced again.
So, why not look after the hips you were born with!
Note that lubrication isn't important for just the hip, it matters for all of your synovial joints. The bigger point is that by understanding how your hip joint (and other joints) are lubricated, you can then work at keeping them healthy and safe.
One way to understand how your muscles keep your hip joint centered, (as well as lubricated) is to imagine the hip joint as being like or similar to a bicycle wheel. You can then imagine the muscles of the hip as being like spokes. How do you keep the hub of this wheel centered? By adjusting spoke tension, or in this case hip muscle tension.
I describe this bicycle wheel hip joint a bit more fully in hip joint bicycle wheel.
To complement this article, I've written another with possible hip joint muscle pairings.
These are how muscles might act together to help keep the hip joint centered. You can read about that in hip joint anatomy. Note the focus here is mainly on single joint hip muscles.
I've written another article that details 10 points of similarity (or something like that) between a hip joint and a bicycle wheel. That article is called understanding your hip joint.
The gluteus maximus is one big-ass muscle. And actually, I'd say that it can be helpful to think of the gluteus maximus as two muscles (possibly even three muscles) in one.
Why divide it up? Well, it can make it easier to understand, easier to use, and it can also help with remedying problems. So for example, if you think of the deep fibers of the gluteus maximus as those that attach from the pelvis to the back of the thigh, and the superficial fibers as those that attach from the pelvis and possibly the sacrum to the tibia, you may just figure out that while the deep fibers activate the superficial fibers may not be.
Note that the superficial fibers may be able to exert more leverage on the PSIS because they attach closer to it. And if you are dealing with back pain, that could be an important consideration.
I don't talk too much about that in gluteus maximus anatomy for yoga teachers but I do talk about other aspects of the gluteus maximus. Big tip, don't be afraid to use it. It's a big ass muscle. It's meant to be used!
Having mentioned the gluteus maximus, it seems fitting here to mention a complementary muscle. Actually, it's not the psoas, though it and the gluteus maximus do play well together (and most of my psoas related articles are filed under the lower back category), it is instead, the adductor magnus. This muscle is particularly important because it can internally rotate the thigh and it can help neutralize the external rotation tendencies of the gluteus maximus when you are trying to use the gluteus maximus to extend the hip.
It's an important muscle. So read all about it.
The adductor magnus could be thought of as a hamstring. It runs from the sitting bone like the hamstrings. Alas, it does not cross the knee. It ends just above the knee. And that's a nice way to segue into the hamstrings.
Read about them and how you can use them with the gluteus maximus (and perhaps even the adductor magnus) in hamstring anatomy for yoga.
For more on how you can use the hamstrings both in forward bends and back bends read hamstring yoga.
There are two types of hip flexors. Maybe there's more, but for the next two links to make sense there are two. One type of hip flexor only works across a single joint. The hip joint. For a look at single joint hip flexors, read hip flexors.
Then there's the multi-joint hip flexors. These could be called the long hip flexors. And as a matter of fact that is what I call them. Read more about them in long hip flexor muscles.
The deep six hip muscles are the piriformis, the gemellus superior and inferior, the obturator internus, obturator externus and the quadratus femoris.
I've only got focused articles on three of them: obturator externus, obturator internus and quadratus femoris.
There are different ways to experience pain in the hip joints. The assumption here is that pain is a result of improper muscle function. To fix it yourself you have to understand how your muscles interact. You have to be able to learn to control your muscles. And you have to be able to feel your muscles. This is what has worked for me. There is no guarantee that it will work for you.
For hip pain in standing forward bends, read fixing hip pain in standing forward bends.
For hip joint pain in general, I've include three general tips for dealing with in in hip joint pain.
For some answers to general questions about the hip joint check out hip joint questions.
For problems with hip joint popping, that's a tough one. I'm still dealing with it on and off, but you can read some suggestions here in hip popping and centering the hip joint. It's been a while since I've written that article, but it seems the best way to find a solution is to play with muscle control.
For sitting bone pain, read sitting bone pain.
I've written a lot about hip joints. Even now I'm still learning. If you really want to understand your hip joints, my suggestion is learn to feel them and control them. Take a look at the hip control guide as a possible starting point..
The smart yogi MCP (muscle control and proprioception) is a more modern approach. Note that it covers a lot but it's all mainly leg work. You will get a better feel for your hips.
For a focus more on the gluteus maximus and the psoas, and using them in a variety of hip configurations, check out improve glute and psoas control via the kua. That's a bit of a mouthful and in the near future I'll just call it smart yogi 5k.
The k in 5K stands for kua and like the MCP it's a set of 5 routines (the MCP program has 6) that gradually and incrementally teaches you to control your psoas and gluteus maximus by focusing on your hip crease, what the Chinese call "The Kua".
For a more general (and free) approach to hip strengthening, check out hip strengthening exercises.
These mostly focus on activating your hips while standing (and balancing) on one leg.