February 16, 2022

What causes snapping hip (and how can I get rid of this annoying sensation)?


That snapping or popping sensation you may sometimes feel when standing up or walking is called snapping hip. It’s very prevalent and usually painless. But sometimes, it can signal other potential conditions and even become a source of hip pain.

Read on to learn more about what causes snapping hip, how you can manage it at home and when you need to see a doctor for further diagnosis or treatment.

What does snapping hip feel like?

With snapping hip syndrome—sometimes called coxa saltans or dancer’s hip—you will feel a snapping sensation or hear your hip pop when you walk, get up from a chair, swing your leg or rotate your hip. Snapping hip pain happens when a muscle or tendon moves over a bony protrusion in your hip.

Internal snapping hip (iliopsoas tendonitis) is the most common type. It is an inflammation of the iliopsoas tendon or surrounding area. The iliopsoas is the hip flexor tendon located over the front of the hip socket.

Sometimes, iliopsoas tendonitis can lead to hip bursitis, a painful swelling of the fluid-filled sacs that cushion the hip joint.

Symptoms of hip bursitis include pain:

  • At the point of the hip or in the groin
  • That extends to the outside of the thigh area
  • Which is sharp and intense, followed by more of an ache
  • That is worse at night when lying on the affected hip
  • When getting up from a chair after sitting for awhile
  • After prolonged walking, stair climbing or squatting

What causes snapping hip?

Snapping hip can occur in a few different areas, including the outside, front or back of the hip. The exterior of the hip is the most common area for snapping hip to occur, where the iliotibial band passes over the portion of the thigh bone known as the greater trochanter.

When the hip is straight, the iliotibial band is behind the trochanter. When the hip bends, the band moves over the trochanter so that it is in front. The iliotibial band is always stretched tight like a rubber band, so when the trochanter juts out, the band’s movement across it creates that snapping feeling.

Snapping hip pain is most often caused by overuse from repetitive activities that involve hip flexion or bending of the hip joint. It’s often the result of tightness in the muscles and tendons surrounding the hip.

Dancers and people who play sports or other activities that require repeated bending at the hip are more likely to experience snapping hip. It’s common in young athletes, especially as hip muscle tightness often happens during growth spurts.

Snapping hip is common among people who regularly participate in activities, including:

  • Ballet
  • Dancing
  • Cycling
  • Resistance training
  • Gymnastics
  • Running/cross-country
  • Soccer

Should I see a doctor?

As long as you’re not feeling any pain with your snapping hip, you probably won’t need to see a doctor. If the popping or snapping sensation bothers you, you can try limiting or modifying your activities.

If you’re having any pain or other troublesome symptoms, you should consult with a hip specialist.

To treat snapping hip, your doctor may recommend:

  • Reducing your activity level
  • Applying ice to the affected area
  • Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen)
  • Modifying your sports or exercise routines
  • Physical therapy
  • Stretching exercises
  • Corticosteroid injection (if you have hip bursitis)

In the rare case that non-surgical treatments don’t help with your symptoms and you’re experiencing pain because of it, surgery may be recommended.

The type of surgery your hip specialist recommends will depend on what’s causing your snapping hip. The most common procedures include:

  • IT band release
  • Iliopsoas tendon release
  • Arthroscopic hip debridement
  • Acetabular labrum repair

Trust the hip experts at OrthoIndy

If you feel snapping hip or hip pain that’s bothering you, the expert team at OrthoIndy can help get to the root of your problem. They’ll figure out what’s causing your symptoms and partner with you on a treatment plan that fits your lifestyle.

Physical therapy is an excellent option for treating snapping hip, and no referral is needed to see one of our experienced physical therapists.

Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000

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