A good massage session doesn’t have to end at the base of the spine. Carrying on down to cover the muscles of the pelvis and hips has been a natural therapy that has proven it’s worth in Eastern massage modalities for thousands of years. Considerable amounts of tension can be found in these areas of our bodies. Including the Pelvis and Hips into your massage session can be greatly beneficial. Releasing tension from these areas alone can vastly improve many conditions as well as make it easier to realease tension in other areas of the body. It’s been known to help with the following issues:
Spinal Distortions. Back/Shoulder Problems.
Sciatica. Misaligned Pelvis.
Stresses caused by pregnancy. Child Birth.
Incontinence. Persistent pelvic pain.
Sexual Abuse trauma. Sexual function.
The muscles of the pelvis and hips are some of the most important in our bodies and are the most overlooked when it comes to massage here in the West. They are at the centre of virtually every movement we make; From walking to sitting and standing, from twisting and bending to leaning. They have the important role of keeping the pelvis and hips strong, stable and together. They are also at the centre of gravity for our skeletal frame and link our upper body muscles with our lower body muscles. The best way to feel this link in action is to place your fingers on the muscles on either side of your spine. Then start walking. You’ll feel your spinal muscles contracting and relaxing with every step you take.
There are more muscles in the pelvis and hips than many people realise. Most of us know about our Gluteus muscles (Bum muscles) as we sit on them every day. However, there are a number of other muscles under our bums, on the front of our pelvis and attached to our hips.
Pelvis and Hip Muscles
Tensor Fasciae Latae. Rectus Femorus.
Piriformis. Superior Gemellus (deep lateral rotator).
Obturator Inturnus (deep lateral rotator). Inferior Gemellus (deep lateral rotator).
Obturator Externus (deep lateral rotator). Quadratus Femoris (deep lateral rotator).
Cremastor. Spermatic Cord.
Ischial Tuberosity. Levator Ani.
Deep Transverse Perineal.
Below are descriptions of some of these muscles:
This medium-sized bum muscle lies under your biggest bum muscle and over your smallest bum muscle. It attaches along the upper edge of the back of your pelvis and to a sheet of connective tissue that spreads from your bum up over your lower back. It also attaches to the upper back of your hipbone (the knob at the top of the thighbone). One of its jobs is to help raise the leg away from your body but its main job is to hold your pelvis steady, especially when the hip on its side bears your weight while you're walking.
Tensor Fasciae Latae:
"Tensor Fasciae Latae" means "tightener of the wide bandage". It attaches to the underside of the upper ridge of your pelvis, it's the muscle in that space on the side of your hip between your pelvis and your thighbone. It attaches below to a band of connective tissue that runs down the outside of your thigh to the outer top of your lower leg. It helps to lift the leg away from centre and to make your hip and knee joints more stable. Tension in this muscle can cause pain in your hip and down the outside of your thigh.
"Piriformis" means "pear shaped". This muscle attaches to the side of the Sacrum, which is the wide, flat bone at the base of your spine just above your tailbone. It lies under your large bum muscle (Gluteus Maximus) and goes across your buttock to attach to the top of your thighbone. Its main job is to rotate your leg outward but it also helps to hold your hip in joint when it's bearing weight. Your Sciatic nerve, which is the nerve that goes down the back of your leg, passes under, over or through this muscle. Tension in the Piriformis can cause pain in your buttock, leg, hip and lower back. Piriformis tension can also affect the groin, the genitals and the rectum as well. Due to it’s proximity with the Sciatic nerve, tension in Piriformis can cause another special problem, Sciatica. This is intense pain that runs down the Sciatic nerve, all the way down the back of the leg into the foot.
More information on Piriformis:
There are six deep lateral (external, outward) rotators of the pelvis and hip. They’re all buried deep in your buttock under your Gluteal muscles. The Piriformis is the prime mover, the top dog as it were (see muscles list for the others). Its main job, as far as actions are concerned, is to rotate the hip, and therefore the leg, outwards. This makes it a key muscle for ballet dancers for example, as they’re required to "turn out" virtually all the time in classic ballet. I’ve massaged a number of dancers and I’ve yet to find one that doesn't have a tight piriformis. So why do so many others who’ve never done a pirouette in their lives before have a tight Piriformis?
We think of muscles mostly in terms of their specific actions. However, I’ve found that most problems come from their very important work of supporting, stabilising, balancing and compensating. If you look at the hip joint on a skeleton, it looks like it wants nothing more than to go flying apart at the slightest shift of weight. Yes, there are ligaments holding it in place, but they aren't strong enough to do the job alone when you think about the incredible demands we put on them. There are a number of muscles attaching to the head of the Femur but the lateral rotators are well placed to hold it in it’s socket, the biggest and strongest of which is piriformis.
So, the reason this affects all of us non-dancers is that most of us don’t stand with our weight evenly distributed between our two legs. If you look at yourself and others closely, you'll notice that almost everyone tends to stand with their weight shifted to one leg or the other. That means Piriformis is working overtime thereby increasing it’s stress and tension.
Another common situation that causes problems in Piriformis happens when your driving, especially over long distances. One of the worst things you can do to a muscle is to leave it in a shortened position for a long period of time. As most people tend to drive with their knees apart, keeping the hips outwardly rotated, that's what happens to piriformis. That's one reason so many people experience low back or leg pain after long hours driving.
Muscles that Directly Link to the Pelvis and Hip
Adductor magnus, Adductor longus, Adductor brevis, Gracilis:
The name "adductor" means "toward puller". "Magnus" means "big", "longus" means "long" and "brevis" means "short". These muscle on the inner thigh have the job of pulling your legs together. At one end they attach all along an arch of bone that goes from your pubic bone, down and back to your "sitbones". At the other end, three of them attach at various points along the inner part of your thighbone. The fourth, Gracilis, which means "the slender muscle", crosses your knee and attaches near the inner knob at the top of your lower leg. Tension in these muscles can cause pain along your inner thighs, fronts of your thighs and your groin.
"Rectus Abdominis" means "straight muscle of the belly". It attaches above to the breastbone and the ribs and below to the pubic bone. Its main job is to flex your trunk or bring your ribs and pelvis closer together. Tension in this muscle can cause pain in your abdomen, your lower back, your middle back, your groin and your pelvis.
Pyramidalis attaches below to the pubic bone and above to the Linea Alba or "white line". A line of connective tissue that goes from the pubic bone up to the breastbone, running between the two sides of the Rectus Abdominis muscle. Anywhere from 15 to 20% of people don't even have one (3.3% of Japanese and 25% of Scottish people don't have one. Isn't that bizarre?). Its job is to help the Rectus Abdominis muscle by tightening the Linea Alba. Tension mainly causes pain essentially to its own area, the middle lower abdomen just over the pubic bone.
The Psoas muscle attaches to the sides of the vertebrae in your lower back. It goes down through your abdomen and joins forces with the Iliacus muscle, which attaches all along the inner surface of your pelvis. Then as one muscle they pass through your groin and attach to the inner front of the top of your thigh. The job of this/these muscles is to lift your leg forward. Tension in these muscles can cause pain in your abdomen, pelvis, groin, upper thigh, lower back and buttocks.