Anatomy of the Hip

The hip joint is the body’s largest ball-and-socket joint.  It withstands repeated motion and wear and tear as it supports the weight of the body during standing, running, and walking.  The hip connects the leg to the trunk and pelvis.

The hip is a sturdy joint comprised of bones, muscles, soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, and cartilage), bursae, nerves, and blood vessels.  All of these work together to provide the stability and the propulsion necessary for normal hip function involved in activities like walking, squatting, and stair-climbing.


The hip joint is made of the femur (thighbone) and the pelvis.  The femoral head fits into the round socket, or acetabulum, on the side of the pelvis.  The femoral neck is a short section of bone that attaches the femoral head to the rest of the femur.  A large bump, or greater trochanter, is next to the femoral neck at the top of the femur.  Muscles connect to the greater trochanter.


There are numerous thick muscles surrounding or attached to the hip joint.  The three gluteals at the back of the hips are the muscles of the buttocks.  Medius and minimus gluteals work to stabilize the pelvis and to abduct and medially rotate the hip.  Gluteus maximus works to extend and laterally rotate the hip joint.  Abductor muscles pull the leg inward toward the other leg.  The iliopsoas muscle and the rectus femoris, a quadriceps muscle, are hip flexors located in front of the hip joint.  Three hamstring muscles form the back of the thigh.  They cause hip extension as they cross the back of the hip joint as they go to the knee.  Adductor muscles push the leg outward from the body.

Soft Tissues

Ligaments attach bones to bones.  Tendons attach muscle to bones.  Ligaments and tendons are both made of collagen fibers that are bundled together.  The bundles come in various sizes and thicknesses to provide different degrees of strength.  Articular cartilage covers the ends of bones at any joint.  It absorbs shock and allows joint surfaces to safely move against each other, making motion easier.

Ligaments work in a variety of ways within the hip.  Three ligaments form a joint capsule, or water tight sac, that provides stability and keep the hip in its place.  The femoral head is connected to the acetabulum by a small ligament called the ligamentum teres.  A small artery within it carries a small amount of blood to a section of the femoral head.   The hip joint has a labrum formed by ligaments.  It makes a deeper cup for the acetabulum socket.  This results in greater stability.

The iliotibial band is a tendon that runs beside the femur from the hip to the knee.  Several hip muscles are connected to it.

Articular cartilage covers the end of the femur .  The socket part of the acetabulum in the pelvis has thicker articular cartilage because it is where a great deal of force occurs during running and walking.


Bursae are located throughout the body.  A bursa is a small sac of lubricating fluid that is found between two moving surfaces.  The greater trochanteric bursa is between the hump on the outer hip and the tendons and muscles that go over it.  Other bursae are located between the iliopsoas muscle as it passes in front of the hip joint and over the bone in the buttocks that is sat upon.

Nerves and Blood Vessels

The femoral nerve at the front of the hip, the sciatic nerve at the back of the hip, and the obturator nerve pass through the hip.  Messages from the brain travel to muscles that move the hip.  Messages about sensations travel back to the brain.  Blood vessels that supply the leg and foot with blood travel with the nerves.  The femoral artery goes through the front of the hip toward the inner edge of the knee.  Its deep branch, or profunda femoris, supplies blood to the femoral head.  The back of the hip and buttocks are supplied with blood that comes from vessels that form inside the pelvis.

If you are feeling any type of hip pain or discomfort, please schedule a consultation at Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute Beaches.  One of our highly-skilled surgeons will be happy to discuss your pain, your lifestyle, and the steps necessary to ensure that you are back to your best self.  Contact us today at 904-241-1204 or online at!

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