Snapping Hip Syndrome

By Chris Markham PT

What is Snapping Hip Syndrome?

Snapping hip syndrome is a condition where a person feels snapping or can hear an audible snapping sound around the hip.   The snapping feeling can occur along the outside of the hip or along the front of the hip with movement.  The snapping is usually painless but could become painful with increased irritation.

Muscles involved in Snapping Hip Syndrome

Muscles involved in Snapping Hip Syndrome

What are common causes of Snapping Hip Syndrome?

Snapping hip syndrome is usually a result of the snapping of a tendon or fascia over a prominent area on the bone. The most common reason we see for the snapping is tightness in the iliotibial band (ITB).  The ITB is a thick band of fascia that runs along the outer upper thigh that starts at the ilium to the tibia.  A tight ITB will cause rubbing over the greater trochanter which is a protrusion from the upper lateral hip.  When you lift your leg up and down or rotate hip in/out you could feel the snapping sensation.  This snapping sensation could result into irritation and pain if it persists.

Another common way we experience snapping hip is tightness in the upper leg muscles.  One such muscle is the hip flexing muscle called the iliopsoas.  The iliopsoas can snap over the pelvic bone causing the pop.  Also, the rectus femoris muscle which is one of four quadriceps muscles can snap over the hip bone if restricted.

Finally, cartilage injury in the hip joint could also lead to a snapping of the hip.  Cartilage injury can cause a limit of your range of motion in the hip which can lead to snapping.

What are the best exercises for Snapping Hip Syndrome?

Physical therapy can assist with improving hip range of motion with stretching and strengthening muscles around the hip joint, however, below are some stretches that can be performed at home:

  • Quadriceps Stretch: This can be performed multiple ways. One way is to lie on stomach using a band to pull heel toward glute.  This stretch can als2o be performed in standing.  Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and rest then complete 3-5 reps.
side lying quadriceps stretch

Side lying quadriceps stretch

  • Thomas Stretch: This is a great stretch that can be performed with laying near edge of bed and hip laying off the end of bed or edge of bed.  This stretch helps to stretch the hip flexor and quadriceps.  Using a strap to achieve overpressure is a good way to improve a stretch at end range.  Hold stretch for 30 sec and complete 3-5 reps.
  • Hamstring Stretch: This stretch can aid in mobility lying on back raise leg and straighten out until stretch is felt behind knee.
Image of hamstring stretch

Image of hamstring stretch

  • Iliotibial Band Stretch: Which can be performed in standing by placing one foot in front of the other and bending forward.  Another way to perform this stretch is to lay on your back and bring your hip across your body so you can feel the stretch along hip which stretches the tensor fascia latta (TFL)
iliotibial band ITB stretch with belt

Iliotibial band ITB stretch with belt

Is Snapping Hip Syndrome Serious?   

While snapping hip is normally pain free, the sensation can be distracting.  In addition, prolonged snapping hip can irritate tissues leading to inflammation.  Inflammation to a tendon or bursa sac could lead to pain and swelling.

Hip Pain

Pain in the Hip

Related Articles: Pool Exercises for Hip Pain, Hip and Knee Pain, and Hip Pain Overview

By: Chris Markham PT

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