Neil Keleher
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The hip joint:

Understanding its anatomy, how to feel it, use it and keep it lubricated
Published: 2020 01 17
Updated: 2020 01 31
Hip joint. Neil keleher in shoelace pose. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.
Categories/Tags: The hip joint

How do I keep my hip joints safe while doing yoga poses?

A big concern when doing yoga (or anything for that matter) is keeping your joints safe.

The main point to keeping your hip joints safe is to activate them. That means use your hip muscles.

One way to use your hip muscles is to use them against each other. They then stabilize the hip joint. This is something you can feel or proprioceive. And it's also something that adds tension to the hip joint capsule which then helps to keep it lubricated.

Hip Joint Stability looks at one useful method for stabilizing the hips.

To further take care of your hip joints, learn to feel them and adjust them, particularly while doing standing yoga poses. Here's some suggestions for adjusting your hips and keeping them safe while doing standing poses: Basic hip adjustments for standing yoga poses

The hip joint Index

How are your hip joints lubricated?

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.

Hip joint stabilization

One way to stablize any joint is to use opposing muscles against each other. Apart from actually stabilizing the joint, one advantage of using muscles against each other is that it enables you to actually "feel" the joint. Another advantage is that this can add tension to the joint capsule and thus help keep a joint hydrostatically lubricated. In other words, you are adding tension to the joint capsule which in turn helps to prevent synovial fluid from being squeezed out from between articulating joint surfaces.

Before I even began thinking about joint lubrication, I wrote this article on stabilizing the hip using various methods. It includes a fairly broad overview of the anatomy of the hip joint, as well as how you can use hip muscles against each other to create hip joint stability, and how you can use hip joint muscles to "create space" in the hip joint. Read more about all of this in Hip joint stability

The hip joint as a bicycle wheel

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

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!

Adductor magnus (in particular, the long head)

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 in adductor magnus.

The hip adductors and other muscles of the inner thighs

While there are five muscles that are generally thought of as the adductors, there are some other thigh muscles that also help to adduct the hip. Taken together these muscles not only help to control adduction and the opposite action, abduction, they also help to control hip flexion and extension as well as hip rotation.

Since some of these inner thigh muscles also work across the knee joint, they can also be useful in helping to control shin rotation relative to the femur and relative to the hip bone.

Read more about all of this in Adductors and inner thigh muscles.

The hamstrings

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 the hamstrings, with links to related anatomy and how to stretch and strengthen the hamstrings, read the hamstrings.

Hip flexors

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.

Because the multi-joint hip flexors also work on the knee, if you get a combination of hip flexor pain and knee pain, say while walking, it may have something to do with these muscles. To find out more, including what you can do about it, check out Hip flexor pain while walking.

For tips on stretching and strengthening these hip flexors, check out Hip flexor stretching and strengthening.

Some of the deep six hip 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.

Hip joint pain

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 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.

Get a better feel for your hip joints

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.

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