Bones of the Hip and Thigh - dummies

By David Terfera, Shereen Jegtvig

Understanding the anatomy of the pelvic girdle and thighs is important for knowing how people walk and move; you can then diagnose a variety of ailments, especially those related to exercise. The hip bones and the thigh bones (or femurs) are large bones that support your upper body, help you walk around, and support your back when you lift things off the ground. Lucky you — you don’t have to memorize too many bones in this region!


The left and right hip (coxal) bones, the sacrum, and the coccyx form the pelvic girdle, which is the housing for the pelvic organs. The hip bones also form the socket portion of the hip joint. Each hip bone is made up of three parts — the ilium, the ischium, and the pubis.

The femur is the longest and heaviest bone in the human body. It extends from the hip (the proximal end) to the knee (the distal end). The femur has several important features:

  • Head: A ball-shaped feature at the proximal end of the bone, with a fovea (or indentation) for the ligament of the head of the femur

  • Neck: Connects the head to the shaft

  • Shaft: The long part of the bone, with two large projections on the proximal end:

    • Lesser trochanter: Extends medially from the shaft

    • Greater trochanter: Extends superiorly and laterally (up and out) from the proximal part of the shaft

  • Intertrochanteric line: A ridge that runs between the trochanters on the anterior (front) side

  • Intertrochanteric crest: Runs between the trochanters on the posterior (back) side of the bone

  • Linea aspera: A long ridge that runs down the back of the shaft

A hip fracture is a break somewhere in the upper part of the femur. It usually occurs from a fall or a direct blow to the hip. People who have osteoporosis, cancer, or certain stress injuries may be at a greater risk for suffering a hip fracture, which may require surgery and a long recovery, especially if the patient is elderly.

Hip fractures are categorized by the location of the fracture (although fractures may occur in more than one area at a time).

  • Intracapsular fractures: Occur at the head and the neck of the femur and usually remain within the joint capsule

  • Intertrochanteric fractures: Occur between the neck and the lesser trochanter and usually cross the area between the two trochanters

  • Subtrochanteric fractures: Occur below the lesser trochanter on the shaft of the femur