Why are my hip muscles so important?
Your muscles are crucial for supporting your hips, the largest ball and socket joint in your body. Your hips are responsible for keeping you mobile and supporting your weight – you use this joint every single day which can make it vulnerable to stress.
Whenever you move, the cartilage (the tissue that protects your bones) is worn away, a little at a time. Normally this is not a huge problem as your body produces a natural lubricant known as synovial fluid, which can help to nourish your cartilage and keep your joints flexible. In old age you can start to produce less cartilage and bone density, which is sometimes why hip pain is common.
However, if you live a sedentary life you can increase your chances of contracting hip pain later on. If your hip muscles are weak or inactive they won’t be able to support your hips quite as effectively, which can lead to all sorts of problems including joint pain and inflammation.
What muscles should I be focusing on?
So keeping your hip muscles in tip top condition is essential but what muscles should you really be focusing on? Well there are approximately 15 different muscles involved with supporting your hip joint and they can be organised into four groups – the anterior group, the posterior group, the abductor group and the adductor group.
Some noticeable muscles in these groups include the largest and arguably the strongest muscle in your body, the gluteus maximus, which is located in your buttocks. It helps to rotate your hip and thighs alongside the other glutes, the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.
There are also your hamstrings, a group of three muscles (the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris) which are important for moving your leg and flexing the knee. Your hamstrings are supported by the quadriceps muscles (vastus medialis, intermedius and lateralis and the rectus femoris) on the front of your thighs, which help you to extend your knee.
Each of these four groups also contain a collection of important muscles known as hip flexors, which are crucial for rotating your hips and supporting your hip joints.
What is your hip flexor?
Your hip flexors are a collection of muscles that enable you to lift your knees and bend at the waist. They are usually attached to the hip joint and allow your upper leg bone to flex. The main hip flexor muscles are the Ilopsoas muscle and the Rectus femoris.
The ilopsoas muscle refers to two muscles that work together – the Ilacus muscle and the Psoas muscle. They both work as a flexor for your thighs at your hip joint and are essential for ensuring you can walk, run and perform other basic movements. The rectus femoris is one of your quadriceps and crosses the hip joint, helping you to extend your knee.
These muscles are incredibly important if you are trying to increase your muscle strength, though they are often ignored, even by professional athletes who prefer to work on their thighs or their lower back!
Can you pull a muscle in your hips?
The consequences of ignoring your hip muscles can definitely make themselves known. The most common type of injury is a hip flexor strain. This can happen quite frequently, especially if you don’t warm up properly before exercising or tear it whilst performing a vigorous movement. It can also occur as a result of having stiff or weak muscles.
Usually this type of injury is not considered to be too severe and is characterised by a pulling sensation in the area where your thigh meets your hip. However if it is more serious you may struggle to walk or experience spasms and swelling. In these instances you should seek medical advice and cease all activity.
Another common injury that may cause hip pain is pulling a hamstring. These muscles are heavily involved with flexing your knees and any injury is normally characterised by a pain in the back of your leg or in your hip.
How do you strengthen your hip muscles?
Keeping your hip muscles strong and toned is essential for healthy hip joints but how should you go about doing this? Well the most logical answer is regular exercise. Some sources suggest that exercise may even help to prevent the need for a hip replacement!1
But what exercises are best, especially if you already suffer from a form of hip pain or aren’t used to regular exercise?
In my next blog I shall be exploring this question and providing you with 6 simple exercises aimed at strengthening your hip muscles, as well as a variety of simple lifestyle and diet tips that will help you to tackle hip pain!