Internal and External Rotation of Hips

I was listening to a podcast about hip replacements and it got me thinking about… hips of course. Hips are my specialty and I may be biased but one of my teachers, John Barnes, has said that 90% of issues start in the hips. I am not sure if the percentage is that high, however many clients come in whit tightness and imbalances in the hips and have no clue. They notice the knee pain or the back pain and they have not clue on what is going on in the hips. And it is no surprise. Often when we workout or stretch we concentrate of hip flexion and extension. Those with experience may add in some abduction and adduction however unless you do yoga, The internal and external rotators get left out!

Ok I just threw a ton of anatomical movement terms at you and you are probably thinking I don’t know what that is! So I found this article that has some pictures!

This morning I was listening to my massage therapist and doing some yoga at home and Rodney Yee was concentrating on the internal and external rotations of the hip. I have been watching his videos on vhs since I was in high school! If you want to give his very short video a try you can find it below.

When you think about why these movements are so important first consider that it is part stability and part steering. Even in walking we need internal rotation to get a full stride. Without it we can get overpronation is the feet or get knock kneed. We also use external rotation to get into a car. Tightness and weakness can cause compensation of other muscles who try to to their job.

The muscles that do that do internal rotations are gluteus minimus and Medius, those are the muscles that many clients point to when they have low back pain. The tensor Fascia lata is also a internal rotator which connects to the IT band. Plus the adductors get involved. Noticing any tightness in these are could mean your internal rotators could use a massage.

Now my favorite muscles are the external rotator muscles. Part of the gluteus maximus plays apart even though it is known as an important part of hip extension. Then we come to the deep six external rotators which includes the piriformis. We often hear about this because a tight piriformis can compress on the sciatica nerve and create pain down the leg. This muscle get stretched very often in yoga with pigeon, butterfly pose, and even sitting cross legged.

Ok I took a really long time to get to what you can do if you think you have tight hip rotators. So of course I am going to mention getting a massage. And talk about deep tissue… those 6 external rotators are deep and I first have to address any tightness in the gluts before I can even reach them! Then I recommend giving yoga a try. Even 15 to 20 minutes a day can make a huge impact on both the flexibility and strength of these muscles. Poses like warrior and triangle pose are great options and easy enough for most people to do since you don’t even have to get on the floor.

I want to finish by saying that we store emotions in our body. This is one of the top three places people tend to do that. Allow these feelings to bubble up and process them. It could be by journaling or seeing a therapist. Sometimes you just need to talk to a friend. I have noticed this with clients on my table and with myself on my yoga mat. Let the tears, anger, etc. flow throw you.


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