When you search for help with your hip aches and pains, do you search for a stretch?
Something to help your hip flexors?
Or maybe you look for help with your piriformis always feeling tight?
These may all suffice for the moment, but if you want to help your hips for the long-term you need to start looking at them (and caring for them) from the inside out.
Think of it like making a layer cake, or building a house, or learning math. If you’re slapdash about the foundation of the whole thing, you’re more likely to run into difficult situations later on.
Most people don’t look deep enough into the hip to make sure the hip is functional and healthy at its foundation. Which is a shame because not only is looking at the hip from its deepest layers outward massively helpful for your hip health, it also makes better use of your time in your training/workout/hip care time.
By learning about the tissues of the hip joint, you’ll get a better understanding of what’s going on in there – so you can do three things:
- Understand your own body better
- Take smarter action for how you care for your body
- Practice long-term solutions for caring for your body
Let’s begin with a simple walk-through of the tissues that make up your hip from the inside out.
Your hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint. Ball-and-socket joints mean freedom due to all the ways the bone can move and rotate in its joint capsule.
That freedom is dependent on something though: that you have a hip that works as a hip is built to work.
Here’s a straightforward list of what makes up the ball-and-socket joint of your hip:
Bone – the part of your pelvis called the acetabulum meets the head of your femur to make your hip joint.
Amongst those two bones is more tissue. Those tissues are:
Articular cartilage – very smooth tissue that allows for frictionless glide between two bones, can withstand high compression forces
Labrum – strong piece of cartilage that runs around the acetabulum and provides more depth to the socket, helps keep fluid inside by sealing off the socket, and provides stability and elasticity
Ligaments and tendons – ligaments are tough, fibrous, connective tissue which connect the femur to the pelvis and tendons are fibrous, collagen tissues which connect bones to muscles; both of these help to create stability for the hip and control motion of the hip.
Synovial fluid – a synovial membrane encapsulates the hip and makes synovial fluid, which is a substance that lubricates and circulates nutrients to the joint. When at rest, the synovial fluid is stored in the cartilage, but when the hip rotates or bears weight the synovial fluid is squeezed out. Note that movement is imperative to keep the joint lubricated and healthy.
Bursae sacs – a part of the whole synovial fluid experience above, these sacs surround the joint and help to lessen friction between tissues.
Circulatory system and lymph system tissues – blood vessels (circulatory system) and lymph nodes and vessels (lymphatic system) help to transport blood and nutrients into the area as well as remove waste materials from the area.
Nerves – carry signals from the brain to the muscles to move the hip and carry signals from the muscles back to the brain about pain, pressure and temperature.
This is all before we even get to muscles.
All the tissues listed above are as much a part of your hip as your hip muscles. When you take care of your hips, you’re not just taking care of the muscles. You’re taking care of a wide array of tissues – all of which are vital for your hip to work as well as it can.
When you do movements with your hip and your body, you are influencing these tissues. When you don’t do movements with your hip and your body, you are influencing these tissues.
Movement matters. It’s influencing far more than just your muscles. And with the ball-and-socket joint of your hip, one type of movement is particularly useful.
In my next post, I’ll share more about that type of movement and an exercise from my new Unbreakable Hips course that you can do to move in that way.
Till then, here are some pictures of tissues mentioned above, if you’ve never looked at the hip anatomy before, it’s fairly wild to see all that is packed into that joint of yours!