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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Scott

Snapping Hip

Updated: Feb 19, 2023

Snapping hip is a condition in which you feel a snapping or popping sensation in the hip with certain movements such as swinging the leg up and around or other physical activity such as running or jumping.

Snapping is created when a muscle or tendon rubs over a bony prominence such as the head of the femur.

Many times the snapping does not cause any pain or discomfort. The noise may be

annoying but it is harmless. Some athletes will notice snapping more when their muscles are tight or fatigued, and less when they are appropriately warmed up and stretched prior to physical activity. Dancers are especially prone to snapping of the hip muscles because of the repetitive leaps and kicks with the leg up and turned out. Adolescents are also prone to the condition because muscles often become tight during periods of growth.

Snapping in or around the hip joint commonly is from one of two causes:

Internal Snapping Hip

This occurs when a tight iliopsoas tendon rubs over either the head of the femur bone or a bony area

on the pelvis called the iliopectineal eminence. The iliopsoas muscle is a powerful hip flexor and works with other muscles to bring the leg up and out to she side (turned out)- a common and important move in dance! Dancers with this type of snapping will describe (and hear) a sensation in the groin when they circle the leg around in front and out to the side of the body.

External Snapping Hip

This occurs when a tight iliotibial (IT) band rubs over a prominence on the side of the femur called the greater trochanter. When the hip is fully straight the iliotibial band (IT) lays behind the greater trochanter on the side of the femur bone. When the hip flexes, such as mid-stride when running, the iliotibial band moves forward and passes in front of the greater trochanter. When the hip again extends, the iliotibial band passes back behind the greater trochanter. This back and forth motion is normally smooth and and pain-free. When inflammation in this area develops and the IT band becomes tight, a painful rubbing sensation can be felt. In patients with low body mass, the snapping can sometimes be visibly seen on the side of the hip.

Usually, snapping hip can be treated with strategies that relax the muscles and help them lengthen. Stretching, manual therapy, physical therapy, and scheduling periods of rest can help. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like advil or aleve can be used to reduce inflammation. An injection of corticosteroid can also be used to calm inflammation. Botox injections have also been described to relax the affected muscle.

In rare cases, snapping hip will not respond to conservative measures and surgery can be required to lengthen the tendon. This is done with arthroscopy, a minimally invasive technique using a camera and instruments inserted through small cuts in the skin.

Your doctor will diagnose your type of snapping hip and guide treatments to relieve pain and discomfort.


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