Hip structure and sources of discomfort

One of the most common injury complaints for the sports or exercise student is swelling and pain in the hip region.

Anyone who competes in a contact sport or exercises aerobically in a sport with sudden starts and stops may notice at some time a tenderness in the hip joint. Usually this slow buildup of joint pain comes with a step up in fitness activity, a lengthening in miles run, or an increase in exercise repetitions.

To understand the reasons behind your sudden pain, you need to understand the anatomy of the hip joint. It is a ball-and-socket joint, but a very stable one, with strong ligaments and muscles protecting it. This ball- and-socket anatomy allows you to swivel your leg and lift your thigh, as in the climbing of stairs or stepping up and over an object.

The ball portion of the hip is the top of the thigh bone or femur. The hip socket it fits into lies on the outer side of the pelvis, and is held together by a sleeve of ligaments called the capsule.

The wonderful thing about a ball- and-socket joint is the ability of movement within three different planes. It moves front to back and side to side and rotates in and out. Try it with your own leg-hip movement. There are many movements that would be restricted if you lost the mobility of this important joint.

Other important factors regarding this amazing hip joint are the powerful muscles that surround it. They provide the motor power to make the joint move with strength and speed. Hip muscles include the iliopsoas, gluteus maximus, abductor, tensor fasciae latae and two smaller abductor muscles, the gluteus minimus and mediius.

When you increase your length of jogging time, add to your sets of tennis, or add another day of exercise or basketball practice, you may find yourself with side hip pain or a general dull ache. I notice this specific problem when a student has moved up to a more intense level or has exercised for several days without good impact cushion.

There are two bursa sacs within the hip region, and when they are irritated from extra impact, they can fill with fluid, resulting in pain building with a slow, accumulative basis. Once the inflammatory process starts, it can be self-perpetuating. It becomes painful to stand on one leg or to lift the leg out to the side. Pulling the knee to the chest results in pain in the front of the hip. Structural unevenness causing one lower hip or one longer leg can also be a reason you feel more stress on one side of your hipbone than another.

When you exercise, always be aware of any new or even slight discomfort you feel within your joints. The hip joint, because of its three planes of movement, is easily stressed with the addition of any new or increased form of movement.

n Jerry Vance owns The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Senior Center.


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