Snapping hip syndrome is when you feel a snapping sensation or a popping sound in your hip when you walk, get up from a chair or swing your leg in a circular way.
The hip is your body’s largest weight-bearing joint. This joint is also called a ball-and-socket joint. The ball is the upper end of the thighbone (or femur), which fits into the socket (or acetabulum) at your pelvis. The acetabulum is ringed by strong fibrocartilage called the labrum. The labrum forms around the socket and creates a seal to provide stability to the joint.
Around the hip joint are ligaments that hold it together. The ligaments work with the tendons that attach muscles in the buttocks, thighs and pelvis to the bones. These muscles control hip movement. There are also fluid-filled sacs called bursae that are located in spots around the hip to provide cushioning and help muscles move other the bone.
The snapping occurs when a muscle or tendon moves over a bony knob on your hip. This snapping can occur in a few places:
- Outside of the hip: This is the most common site. Occurs at the outer side where the iliotibial band passes over the portion of the thighbone known as the greater trochanter.When the hip is straight, the iliotibial band is behind the trochanter; but when the hip bends, the band moves over the trochanter so that it is in front of it. The iliotibial band is always tight, like a stretched rubber band. Because the trochanter juts out slightly, the movement of the band across it creates a snap.
- Front of the hip: The rectus femoris tendon runs from the front of the thigh up to the pelvis and as you bend the hip, the tendon shifts across the head of the thighbone and when you straighten the hip the tendon moves back to the side. This back and forth motion can cause snapping.
- Back of the hip: The hamstring tendon attaches to the sitting bone, called the ischial tuberosity. When it moves across the ischial tuberosity, it may catch causing a snapping sensation in the buttocks region.
- Cartilage problems: The labrum that lines the socket of the hip can tear and cause a snapping sensation. This is usually painful and could also be disabling.
Eventually, snapping hip syndrome may lead to hip bursitis. Bursitis is thickening and inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that allows the muscle to move smoothly over bone.
- Tightness in the muscles and tendons surrounding the hip
- Sports and activities that require repeated bending at the hip
- Young athletes and dancers are more vulnerable
- Snapping sensation in the hip
Your physician will ask you for a complete medical history, ask questions about your pain and how long you have been experiencing your symptoms, and conduct a physical examination. An X-ray or MRI may be necessary to rule out other injuries.
Most people do not see a physician for snapping hip syndrome unless they are experiencing pain. Usually the syndrome can be treated nonsurgically:
- Reduce activity level
- Apply ice to affected area
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen
- Physical therapy
- Stretching exercises
- Corticosteroid injections
In extremely rare cases where nonsurgical treatment does not work and the patient is experiencing pain, surgery may be necessary. Surgery depends on the cause and location of the snapping sensation. Most times a hip arthroscopy will be used; however, an open procedure may be necessary to address some issues.
Learn more about hip treatment at OrthoIndy.
Schedule an appointment
Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.