The hip joint is formed by the pelvic bones and the femur or upper leg bone. The hip joint is called a ball-and-socket joint. The femur has a ball shaped end that fits into a cup formed by the pelvic bones. This configuration along with strong ligaments makes the hip joint very sturdy. Muscles attach to the femur at the greater and lesser trochanters. These muscles move the hip joint with 3 basic movements. The muscles can be injured resulting in altered walking mechanics, loss of strength and hip joint area pain. This article outlines a series of stretches that can assist you to maintain good hip joint motion and stability.
Hip Joint Muscles And Movements
There are 3 movements of the hip joint and a single muscle or group of muscles are responsible for each movement. The muscles and actions include the following:
- Flexion and Extension – Flexion is primarily provided by the iliopsoas (ill-e-so-as) muscle. Extension is generated by the gluteus maximus (large buttock muscle) and the hamstrings.
- Abduction and Adduction – Abduction is moving the leg away from the midline of the body. Adduction is moving it towards the midline. Abduction is produced by the gluteus medius and minimus muscles and the inner thigh muscles perform adduction.
- External and Internal Rotation – The obturator, quadratus femoris and gemelli muscles are primarily responsible for external rotation of the hip. Internal rotation is produced by the tensor fascia lata, gluteus medius and minimus.
Muscle movement is made much easier by the bursa around the hip joint.
Hip Joint Exercises
These exercises are designed to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the hip joint, pelvis and upper leg. If you experience an increased pain or the pain persists during or after the exercises, consult your health care provider for further evaluation. The adage “work through the pain” is not an option. Discontinue the action that is painful. The stretch should be held for 20-30 seconds. Never “bounce” the muscle, but always start with a gradual stretch and increase in the pain free range to your maximum stretch before it is uncomfortable to you. It is recommended that both sides be performed to maintain muscle balance.
Stand while placing one hand on the wall for stability; bend one knee by holding the foot. Gradually stretch the anterior thigh by moving the heel toward the buttocks.
Place your hand on the wall for stability. To perform the stretch, cross your outside leg over the inside leg placing your outside foot between the wall and the weight bearing inside foot. Gradually lean the hip into the wall keeping the back straight.
Stand and place your hand on the wall for safety and stability. If you have good balance, try it without using the wall. Bend the knee, with the opposite hand hold on to the flexed knee, and bring it across the body for the stretch.
Stand and place one hand on the back of a chair or use a wall. Extend the hip and flex the knee while bending forward towards the back of the chair.
Stand placing your hands on a stool or seat of a chair. Gradually bend forward to this position and straighten the legs. This stretches the hamstrings and lower back.
Sit with the legs straight out in front of you. Bend the knee and place your foot over the opposite leg. Take the elbow to the outside of the bent knee. Stretch the lower back and buttock muscles.
Lay flat on your back placing your feet flat on the floor with the knees bent. Bring one knee to the chest for a stretch. Try to keep your back as flat as you can on the floor with this stretch.
The stretches are to be done to your tolerance. Forcing the exercise into pain defeats the purpose of the routine. The stretches are to be held for 20-30 seconds. Begin with a 20-second hold and as you improve gradually increase the time to 30 seconds per stretch. If any of the exercises are painful, discontinue the one that is causing the discomfort. Pain should not persist; if it continues, consult your health care provider.