Last week, I had the opportunity to discuss the function of the hips with the international Feldenkais community. Lately, I relish the opportunity to talk about the body in more artful terms.
Something that is so beautiful about our musculoskeletal system, that I think people of all walks of life can relate to, is that the muscles are both intended to move and to protect. While some muscles of the hips help you to kick or squat, others are just as significant, as they give you the stability to not fall over or cause pain when doing so. From this perspective, rehab can be an interpretation of how the body responds to what you are trying to do.
As a woman, an athlete, and a person in her forties, I am particularly taken with what it means to generate power through the kinetic chain. As the center of the body, the hips drive most of our muscular power and force; which means even an arm movement- a golf swing or a baseball pitch- can be improved through the power of the hips. So much so, that rehabbing a tennis swing or a boxing punch requires the power in the hips.
We pay the price when we inhibit this power. For women, it can happen when we learn that we must cross our legs, tighten our pelvic floor and pull in the corset muscles. By doing so, we put undo stress on the gluteal tendons, and cause migratory patterns and loss of congruency in the hip joints. For men, it can happen by working out at high loads, making excessive demands on the abdomen and the groin, and sometimes over-recruiting muscle patterns at the expense of seemingly simple tasks- like putting on pants or socks. (This is where I once again have to say it – it happened to my own brother).
It’s in this dance between stability and mobility that we really get the best out of our bodies. If we stabilize too much, we inhibit movement, if we stretch too much, we exacerbate problems.
The hip is a ball and socket joint, and those who are lucky enough to have a very smooth ball that rests well in a very smooth socket, are free to move it in many directions and in many ranges of motion. But, a lot of us no longer have smooth hips, or never did, and so when our range of motion becomes limited, we need to work with adaptation and learn what makes sense in this new capacity.
This is why I love working with the musculoskeletal system. If one way doesn’t work, try another, and if that doesn’t work, try another still; because usually something works, and sometimes it’s even better than before.
There is a cuff in our hips, much like there is one in the shoulder (the ole rotary cuff), that responds when the hip is in the place where it’s meant to be. Through joint and muscular receptors, the cuff receives the right input, switches on, and integrates with the other muscles to do what it is we want to do. That is the protection mechanism of the hip, and often getting it to work is enough to reduce pain and create shock absorption right away.
One could look at this as a feedback loop- the idea that comfort drives more comfort, that the musculoskeletal system optimizes when we allow things to be where they are meant to be.
By constantly interpreting information from the ground, through the skeleton and from one body part to another, the deep muscles in the hips help to support our structure, by creating the right harmony between control and movement.
Often, it requires getting out of our own way to let the body organizes itself this way. When we do less, manage load, make appropriate mistakes, and take a breath, we let the body do its awesome work.