BeneFIT PT’s Anatomy Series: the Hip

We are continuing BeneFIT  Physical Therapy’s Anatomy  Blog Series this month with the Hip Joint. Each month we will feature a different part of the body. BeneFIT PT staff is highly trained in knowing all about human anatomy so that we can effectively help our patients with their specific areas of concern, rehabilitation and strenghthening.

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The hip joint is similar to the shoulder joint in that it is a ball and socket style joint which is stabilized by surrounding muscles and ligaments.  It is comprised of the bones that make up the pelvis and our thigh bone, called the Femur.

The hip joint is comprised of primarily four bones:

    • Femur (longest bone in the body)
    • Ilium
    • Ischium 
    • Pubis

The ilium, ischium and pubis come together and fuse into a single bone to form the acetabulum by the time of adulthood. 





The femoral head (ball) is located on the femur and sits in the acetabulum (socket) of the pelvis, similar to that of the shoulder in which the humerus (upper arm bone) is seated in the glenoid of the scapular (shoulder blade). 






There are a number of ligaments in the hip joint.  Their primary function is to stabilize the joint along with the joint capsule.  Even though though the hip joint is a more secure ball and socket joint than the shoulder these ligaments offer further support.

The hip contains 3 primary ligaments that for the joint capsule and offer  support/stabilization. 

    • Iliofemoral
    • Pubofemoral
    • Ischiofemoral

Both the iliofemoral and pubofemoral ligaments are in the front of the hip joint, while the ischiofemoral ligament is the primary ligament found on the back of the hip joint.


Our hip joint is the second most mobile joint in the body after the shoulder joint.  All of the different motions our hips are capable of are based off of the number of muscles that surround the hip joint.  These multitude of muscles allow the hip joint to move into:

  • Flexion – moving your leg up in front of you
  • Extension – moving your leg behind you
  • Abduction – moving your leg out to your side away from your other leg
  • Adduction – moving your leg back towards the other one
  • External Rotation – twisting your leg away from your other leg
  • Internal Rotation – twisting you leg towards your other leg.

The hip muscles can be divided into groups based on what motion of the hip they do or based on their location.  For ease of understanding here are a number based on their location.

  • Anterior
    • Quadriceps – Vastus lateralis, medialis, intermedius and rectus femoris.
    • Iliopsoas
  • Posterior
    • Gluteals – gluteus maximum, gluteus, medius, gluteus minimus. 
    • Hamstrings – biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus 
  • Lateral
    • Tensor fascia lata (TFL) 
  • Medial
    • Adductors – Adductor magnus, longus, brevis, pectineus and gracilis. 
    • External Rotators – piriformis gemelli, obturator internus.



There are 3 main nerves that run in/through the hip.  All of these nerves start in our lumbar spine and sacrum and will extend through the pelvis, past the hip joint, and down into the legs.  Any injury to any of these nerves can create pain, numbness, tingling, or pins and needles into the hip and further down the leg depending on the severity of the nerve injury.  Not good.

    • Femoral – is responsible for the skin and muscles of the front of the leg
    • Obturator – is responsible for the skin and muscles of the inside of the thigh
    • Sciatic – is responsible for the skin and muscles of the back of the leg.




Bringing it All Together

The hip joint is a more stable version of the shoulder joint being a ball and socket joint.  Just like the shoulder, the hip has a number of different common injuries you might have to deal with based on the combination of bone, muscle, ligament, or nerves involved in the injury.  Touching base with your Physical Therapist can speed up the process in figuring out what exactly is causing your pain…even without an x-ray!

If you’re having any issue with your hip currently and want to get it checked out just contact either of our offices.  Our Doctors of Physical Therapy can see you without a prescription, covered by your insurance, often times within 24 hours from your call!