Moving in the Right Direction  
The hips are the foundation of our lower bodies and have a significant affect on our upper bodies.  (Photo: Contributed)
The hips are the foundation of our lower bodies and have a significant affect on our upper bodies. (Photo: Contributed)


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Big hips, small hips, narrow hips, high hips, it doesn’t matter the size or the shape, what does matter is that we take care of them. Let’s talk about the importance of maintaining healthy hips.

The hips are the foundation of our lower bodies and have a significant affect on our upper bodies. The hips are balanced upon our thigh bones and then support the spine where the low back (lumbar) meets our tailbone (sacrum). There are 4 groups of muscles around the hips. These are the adductors (on the inside), the abductors (on the lateral hip), the flexors (on the anterior side) and the extensors (on the posterior aspect). These muscles control the movements of the hips. Muscle imbalances are a function of opposing muscle groups where one is much stronger (usually shortened) or weaker (usually lengthened) than the other. When we think about movement of the hips, there are two possibilities.

The first possibility is that someone is placing their weight on one leg, and so the opposite hip joint is able move between the thigh bone and hip bone. This happens when someone takes a step. The other possibility is that both feet are planted on the ground, becoming the foundation, and the movement of the hips affect the curve of the lumbar vertebrae.

There are two major hip/low back movements that we most commonly evaluate- anterior rotation (tilting forward and an increase in lordosis) and posterior rotation (tilting back and an increase in kyphosis, or flat back). During an anterior tilt, the iliopsoas contracts. Therefore, if the iliopsoas is too tight, it will pull the pelvis forward. Shortened hip flexors, the iliopsoas being one of the 5 hip flexors, is a very common characteristic of most peoples’ hips and back and knee pain. When the adductor muscle group is tight, they will cause the femur to roll inward and put stress on the knee, ankle and destabilize the pelvis. If the abductor muscle group is shortened, they will also destabilize the pelvis and cause pain while walking. The piriformis is one of the abductors that when overly shortened can cause sciatic nerve irritation, which shoots pain down the back of the thigh. When the extensors are tight, hamstrings and gluteus maximus, again can cause low back and knee pain, create leg length discrepancies and restrict stride length.

This is a very brief and simple description of how tightness around the hip joint can cause problems in our daily lives. The bottom line is that with each distortion, there will be a diagonal pattern of tension through the body. When the movement of the hips is exaggerated one way or another, it can result in lower back pain and serious injuries. Muscle imbalances and tight muscles around the hips often set up a cascade of problems throughout the body. The preventative prescription for healthy hips is not a difficult one. Simple stretches done before your golf game or the Saturday morning bike ride or the Sunday morning long run or after a long road trip, can help you to enjoy your sport and your day more.

For helpful exercise tips, go to my website: Sculpt Pilates

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About the Author

Lori Rockl graduated from UBC with a Bachelor of Political Science. After working with the Federal Government through two elections, she escaped back into her gifted life of fitness training and now owns a successful Pilates & Yoga studio. Although her clientel tell her often how much they learn from her, Lori would tell you that she is the one that learns the most from her clients. For Lori, the study of the mind-body connection is an infinitely fascinating study. She has found that Pilates and yoga are excellent tools for healthy living and incorporate those tools into her marathon and triathalon training. Please contact lori at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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