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Nerves, blood vessels, and bursae

Nerves, blood vessels, and bursae all play an important role in hip joint health.

All of the nerves that travel down the thigh pass by the hip. The main nerves are the femoral nerve in front and the sciatic nerve in back of the hip. A smaller nerve, called the obturator nerve, also goes to the hip.

These nerves carry the signals from the brain to the muscles that move the hip. The nerves also carry signals back to the brain about sensations such as touch, pain, and temperature.

Traveling along with the nerves are the large vessels that supply the lower limb with blood. The large femoral artery begins deep within the pelvis. It passes by the front of the hip area and goes down toward the inner edge of the knee. If you place your hand on the front of your upper thigh you may be able to feel the pulsing of this large artery.

The femoral artery has a deep branch, called the profunda femoris (profunda means deep). The profunda femoris sends two vessels that go through the hip joint capsule. These vessels are the main blood supply for the femoral head. As mentioned earlier, the ligamentum teres contains a small blood vessel that gives a very small supply of blood to the top of the femoral head. Other small vessels form within the pelvis and supply the back portion of the buttocks and hip.

Big or small, the nerves, blood vessels, and bursae of the hip joint affect your ability to move and maintain good joint health.

Where friction occurs between muscles, tendons, and bones there is usually a structure called a bursa. A bursa is a thin sac of tissue that contains fluid to lubricate the area and reduce friction. The bursa is a normal structure. The body will even produce a bursa in response to friction.

Think of a bursa like this. If you press your hands together and slide them against one another, you produce some friction. In fact, when your hands are cold you may rub them together briskly to create heat from the friction. Now imagine that you hold in your hands a small plastic sack that contains a few drops of salad oil. This sack would let your hands glide freely against each other without a lot of friction.

A bursa that sometimes causes problems in the hip is sandwiched between the bump on the outer hip (the greater trochanter) and the muscles and tendons that cross over the bump. This bursa, called the greater trochanteric bursa, can get irritated if the iliotibial band (discussed earlier) is tight. Another bursa sits between the iliopsoas muscle where it passes in front of the hip joint. Bursitis here is called iliopsoas bursitis. A third bursa is over the ischial tuberosity, the bump of bone in your buttocks that you sit on.

Taken together, the nerves, blood vessels, and bursae of the hip joint form a protective layer over the bones and muscles of the hip joint.

For more information on this subject, call The Zehr Center for Orthopaedics at 239-596-0100 or visit www.zehrcenter.comThe information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments, or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of a visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read on this topic. 

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