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Mobile hips equal healthy back

The body has joints that alternate between stable and mobile. Mobility refers to the joint's ability to move through a given range of motion. A healthy shoulder is a fitting example of a joint that has a large range of motion, with good mobility. The mobility allows us to use our arm/hand in many directions. Stability refers to the ability to restrict movement.

The stability joints are the foot, knee, lumbar spine, cervical spine, and elbow. The mobility joints are the ankle, hip, thoracic spine, shoulder, and wrist.

Quite often the joints that are stability-based become more mobile, and the joints that are mobility-based become more stable. When the joints within the kinetic chain lose their primary role due to dysfunction and change roles, human movement becomes compromised, and the chance of injury increases significantly.

The hips are meant to be mobile and when they become tight the lumbar spine compensates causing pain in the low back. Therefore, keeping the hips mobile is important. Two important muscles to keep mobile are the hip abductors known as the gluteus medius and minimus.

Muscle anatomy

The gluteus medius originates on the outer surface of the hip bone and attaches to the outer/slightly forward surface of the thigh bone. The gluteus minimus lies underneath the gluteus medius and originates slightly below the gluteus medius and attaches to the outer/forward surface of the thigh bone. The main job of these two muscles is to keep the pelvis level while walking, running, and standing on one leg. They also abduct the leg out to the side and rotates the leg both internally and externally.

Gluteus medius Gluteus minimus

Symptoms of tightness

  • Local pain in the muscles and in the small of the back

  • Aches radiating down the leg (false sciatica)

Causes of tightness

  • Sitting for extended periods of time

  • Poor standing posture – constantly leaning on the same leg

  • Difference in leg length

Flexibility test

  1. Stand against a wall with your buttocks, shoulders, and head against the wall

  2. Step forward with the left leg enough to allow the right leg to step behind and to the other side of the left leg

  3. Keep the right leg straight and slightly bend the left knee

  4. Slowly slide your left hand down your thigh until you feel a stretch on the outside of your right hip

  5. You should be able to touch the right leg just below the right knee

  6. Return to the starting position

  7. Test the other side

Tip: Keep your buttocks, shoulders, and head against the wall throughout the test.

The fix

The first step is static release which minimizes trigger points and adhesions.

Static release

  1. Lie on the floor with your feet elevated on a chair, bench, or sofa

  2. Your knees and hips are bent 90 degrees

  3. Place a tennis or lacrosse ball under the outside of the right hip

  4. Let your knees drop to the right until a tension of between 5 and 8 out of 1 to 10 is felt (10 being excruciating)

  5. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes or until a release is felt

  6. If a release is felt, find a new spot, or allow the knees to drop a little more to the right

  7. Slowly return to the starting position

  8. Repeat on the left side

Take the flexibility test again to see if improvement has been made.

Next week we will discuss the gluteus medius dynamic release which breaks up the stickiness of the muscle through a range of motion.

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