My students often ask: Where are my hip joints? Are they in front, just below my waist? Or here, at the sides of my pelvis?
Do You Know Where Your Hip Joints Are?
Take a moment right now and put your fingers where you think they are. Did you place your fingers in front, on the sides or in back? Read on to find out how accurate (or inaccurate) you are.
A Common Mistake that Leads to Back Strain
Does it really matter whether you know where your hip joints are? Yes! There are many perks to having a clearer, more accurate sense of your hip joints.
First, excess tension in your pelvis, legs and low back often release and your strength and range of motion will increase. Knowing the true location of your hip joints also helps improve posture and reduce pain and injury.
The #1 mistake people make with their backs is bending over almost entirely from their waist. The spine is not a hinge, yet this is how many people use their low backs resulting in strain. Once you know where they are, you can bend from your hip joints—a place your body is designed to hinge—thus sparing yourself from back strain!
How to Find Your Hip Joints
You can’t touch your hip joints like you can your elbow joints since they are more internal and are covered by a lot of muscle and tissue. I find the best way to locate these elusive joints is by triangulating them from the front, side and back.
1. Find the Front of Your Hip Joint
Stretch your thumb and middle finger away from each other as if to measure something wide. This is the approximate distance between your two hip joints.
Place your spread hand horizontally on your lower belly a little above your pubic bone. Your hip joints are roughly internal to the tips of your thumb and middle finger.
Surprised? You’re not alone. Most people think the hip joints are much wider.
2. Find the Side of Your Hip Joint
Now stand on your left leg (your right foot is still on the floor but without any weight in it). Place your whole right palm on the widest part of the right side of your pelvis.
Begin to slowly turn your right heel a little out and in (let your whole leg turn). Feel for a bony bump moving under your right hand. Adjust the position of your hand until you feel it. This is your greater trochanter—the topmost part of your thighbone before it heads inward.
From this point, visualize the thighbone bending and continuing slightly upward and inward and ending in a “ball”, aka the head of the femur bone. This is the ball that fits into the hip socket (the concave hollow in the pelvis). It’s okay if you can’t imagine it clearly; just get a rough guess where internally your thighbone ends.
Now you’ve identified a front and a side point—your hip joint is interior to the point your fingertip marked in front, and a short distance inward and upward from the greater trochanter on the side. Do your two points converge on a similar spot?
3. Find the Back of Your Hip Joint
Stand on your left leg. Place your right hand on your greater trochanter, then slide your hand back onto your right buttock. Feel for the indent in your musculature—the place where your butt isn’t quite as round.
Begin turning your right leg out and in. With your palm soft and making broad contact on your buttock, feel for the movement of your leg rotating in the hip socket. It’s subtle—there’s a lot of muscle and padding between your palm and the actual joint!
If you’re having difficulty, try this:
Move your hand to where your hip joint definitely isn’t (such as your belt area in back). Notice how it’s pretty solid and without movement. Then return your hand to the indent in your buttock. Move the hand a little up, down, right and left until you feel the inkling of movement—this is the back of your hip joint!
4. Enjoy Your 3-Dimensional Hip Joint
Refresh all three points, then use them to triangulate the location of your hip joint in your sensation or imagination. Place a finger on the point you find. How close is this to your original guess as to where your hip joint is?
Begin to walk. Use your finger to help feel from where and how your right leg swings from your pelvis.
Now stand with your arms hanging at your sides. Take a moment to compare your two legs and two sides of your pelvis. What’s different?
Slowly shift weight from foot to foot and observe the difference between the sides. Then walk again and see if something is a little easier or freer in your leg, hip or back.
Over the next few days, continue to be aware of your hip joints, especially when you bend and reach. What positive changes does your new-found hip knowledge bring?
Want to Relieve Your Back Pain and Improve Your Hips?
Learn to reduce strain in your low back in my Low Back Love series (starts 8/7/18)
Improve the range and quality of your hips for easier back, neck and shoulders in my Walking for Neck and Shoulders series (starts 8/7/18)