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Pelvic Anatomy: Structure And Function Of The Pelvis

By Tyler Woodward

Structure Of The Pelvis:

Structure Of The Pelvis

The pelvis is centerpiece of the lower body and is necessary for coordinating and balancing movement throughout the gait cycle (walking). The pelvic girdle is made up a few bones:

  • The Sacrum - The lower portion of the vertebrae (the spine) that resides between the lumbar vertebrae (the lower back) and the tailbone (the coccyx). 
  • The Coccyx - This is most commonly known as the tailbone and is the bottommost portion of the spine.
  • The Innominate Bones - The innominate bones are the two biggest hip bones that reside on either side of the pelvis. The innominate bones are technically made up of three different bones:
    • The Ilieum - This is the most prominent part of the hip and can be felt by running your hand along the side of your waist and also can be seen if you are relatively lean. 
    • The Ischium - These are known as your sit bones and are the bones you feel when sitting on a chair
    • The Pubis - The bones at the bottom of the pelvis that merge the two sides together 

There are also a number of muscles that attach within the pelvic girdle:

  • The Glutes - The glutes, most commonly known as the “butt muscles” are the body’s primary hip extensors. The glutes function to bring the hips back behind the body and to propel yourself forward. The gluteus medius and gluteus medius also play a role in stabilizing the pelvis 
  • The Quads - The quadriceps are four muscles that lie on the front of the leg and are responsible for knee extension, pushing the lower leg forward towards a “locked” out knee.
  • The Adductors - The adductors, commonly known as the groin muscles are the muscles on the inside of the legs. The adductors like the glutes are hip extensors. They primarily elongate from out to the side of the body, not straight in front like the glutes. The adductors also play a role in “adducting” the thighs by bringing one leg closer to the other.
  • The Hamstrings - The hamstrings are the muscles on the back of the leg. They are primarily responsible for knee flexion, bringing your foot up towards your butt. The hamstrings also play a role in hip extension depending on their position.
  • The Pelvic Floor Muscles - The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that control everything from breathing, urinating to ejaculation.
  • The External Rotators - The external rotators are a small group of muscles that externally rotate the hips. Helping to rotate the hips out and away from the body. 
  • The Hip Flexors - These are a group of muscles that flex the hips upward bringing the knee upward to the stomach.

Functions Of The Pelvis:

Functions Of The Pelvis

Movement - The pelvis and all of the muscles that attach to it are the prime movers in the gait cycle (walking). They are involved in quite literally every form of movement that involves the legs. Whether it’s walking, running, swimming, or climbing. The pelvis is also responsible for balancing or stabilizing the body throughout movement. Helping to keep one side in rhythm with the other.

Support - The pelvis also plays a role in supporting the skeletal system as a whole, but also supporting all of the organs in the gut. The organs that reside above the pelvis include the intestines, the diaphragm, and the bladder. Without the pelvis these organs would not have any structural support to sit on. 

Breathing - Although technically a part of movement the pelvis actually widens and tightens during the breathe cycle. When you exhale the innominate bones move slightly together in order to contract the diaphragm. This squeezes air out of the lungs. When you inhale the innominate bones widen to allow the diaphragm to expand allowing air to fill the lungs.

Read More: Movement Is Medicine | A Guide To Moving Better

Common Dysfunctions Of Pelvic Anatomy:

Dysfunctions Of The Pelvis

The pelvis itself is rather injury resistant, but due to its role as the intermediary between so many other body parts it often plays a role in many injuries. These include:

  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction - Inability to regulate intra-abdominal pressure that can result in an impaired bladder control or sexual function.
  • Sciatica - This occurs when nerves running through the pelvis are pinched together which can occur for a variety of reasons. 
  • Broken Pelvis - This is an extremely rare injury that results as a fracture of one of the bones of the pelvis, most frequently the pubic bones. A fracture pelvis generally requires surgery.
  • Fracture Tailbone - A broken tailbone can occur most often due to impact like traffic collisions or from football. 

How To Keep Your Pelvis Healthy?:

To keep your pelvis healthy there are a number of things you can do:

  1. Move It Or Lose It - If you're not consistently loading your pelvis through walking, running, jumping, ect there is no reason for your body to maintain its bone density. To maintain your bone density you must continually load your pelvis in some fashion.
  2. A Healthy Diet - If you don't consume enough calcium and Vitamin K2 to "direct" calcium into your bones and not into your tissues, your body will be forced to pull calcium from its bone stores to compensate. This will result in a decrease in bone density over time.
  3. Breathing Properly - The pelvic floor muscles must regulate pressure in the abdominal cavity to be able to breathe, urinate, etc, properly. Learning how to breathe properly via nasal breathing and getting a full contraction of the diaphragm is essential to maintaining optimal health of the pelvis. Check out this guide on how to breathe properly: The Importance Of Breathing: How To Breathe Properly

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