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What is the Hip Bone?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The hip bones make up the bulk of the pelvis, and articulate with the femur. Each hip bone comprises roughly half of the pelvis, articulating with the sacrum in the back of the pelvis and with structures on the other hip bone in the front to create the pelvic girdle. Although people often think of the pelvis as a single fixed bone, it's actually not: the pelvis consists of a number of smaller bones which fuse together as people grow up. During pregnancy, the joints between these bones actually loosen to allow the pelvis to expand so that it can accommodate the growing baby and the stress of labor and delivery.

The three bones which comprise each hip bone are known as the innominate bones. The ileum is the largest innominate bone, making up the upper part of the hip bone. It joins with the ischium in the back and the pubis in the front to create the hip joint, with the ball of the femur fitting snugly into the bowl-like shape created by these three bones. At birth, the innominate bones are not joined, and part of the joint is made of cartilage. Over time, a process known as bone remodeling occurs, with the original cartilage being replaced by bone, and the bones slowly fusing together.

A number of problems can develop with the hip bone, as it is positioned at a rather key point in the body. Malformation of the bone can result in gait problems, difficulty giving birth, or profound discomfort for the patient. The hip bone and joint can also fracture, especially in older people who tend to have more fragile bones. Fractures need to be repaired surgically in most cases, and patients are often forced to rest for an extended period while the fracture heals to avoid rebreaking the bone.

The hip bone is also very different in men and women. Men to have a narrower pelvis, while women have a wider pelvis with a larger opening which is designed to allow them to give birth. The structure of the hip bone in humans is also rather unique, designed to allow them to walk upright rather than all fours. In women, a compromise has been struck in the design of the hip bone which permits upright walking while also allowing women to give birth, by permitting the innominate bones to pull apart slightly during pregnancy to widen the pelvis.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By risvan — On Nov 26, 2015

What is the difference between the hip bone and the pelvis?

By browncoat — On Jun 07, 2011

It's interesting that the hip is one of the joints that always seems to wear out as people get older. So many people over 60 need to get a hip replacement or even two. I guess people were not originally evolved to live as long as we do now.

I think it is usually the top of the leg bone, going into the hip, that gets replaced, and only rarely the pelvis area is replaced by an artificial cup in place of the joint.

I know a few people who have had it done, but I hope I never have to have the same surgery. It's supposed to be very safe and effective but the idea of having foreign material in my body like that creeps me out a little.

By croydon — On Jun 05, 2011

That difference in the hip bones between men and women is the reason women sway more than men when they walk. Which might be why men find the sway so attractive... the wider the hip bones, the bigger the movement. The wider the hip bones, the more likely the woman won't have difficulty during child birth, which is a good evolutionary feature to have.

On the other hand if it is too wide, she won't be able to run from predators.

I actually think that there are some other differences between the female and the male pelvic bones, like the angles of different structures, but I can't remember my biology classes anymore.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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