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  • Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT

Snapping Hip Syndrome 101: What It Is, Why It Happens, And How to Prevent It

Updated: Apr 29, 2023


young girls in various ballet poses

Do you hear a snapping or popping sound when you move your hip? Does it feel like something is catching or sliding in your hip joint? If so, you might have Snapping Hip Syndrome (SHS).

Snapping hip syndrome is a condition where the tendons, muscles, or ligaments around the hip joint snap or pop when they move over the bony structures of the hip. It may cause pain, discomfort, and reduced range of motion in the hip.

Snapping hip syndrome is also known as coxa saltans, dancer's hip, or iliopsoas tendinitis. It can affect anyone, but it is more common in athletes, dancers, and people who perform repetitive movements involving the hip.

In this blog post, we will explain what causes Snapping Hip Syndrome, what are the risk factors for developing it, how to diagnose it, how to treat it, and how to prevent it. Read on to learn more about this condition and how to deal with it.


What causes snapping hip syndrome?

Snapping hip syndrome can be caused by various factors that affect the structures around the hip joint. There are three main types of snapping hip syndrome:

  1. External snapping hip syndrome: This occurs when the iliotibial band (a thick band of tissue that runs from the outer thigh to the knee) or the gluteus maximus muscle (the large muscle in the buttocks) snaps over the greater trochanter (the bony bump on the upper part of the femur). This type of snapping hip syndrome is more common in runners, cyclists, and dancers.

  2. Internal snapping hip syndrome: This occurs when the iliopsoas tendon (a tendon that connects the lower back and inner thigh muscles to the femur) snaps over the iliopectineal eminence (a bony ridge on the front of the pelvis) or over the femoral head (the ball-shaped end of the femur). This type of snapping hip syndrome is more common in dancers, gymnasts, and martial artists.

  3. Intra-articular snapping hip syndrome: This occurs when there is something inside the hip joint that snaps or catches when the joint moves. This can be caused by a labral tear (a tear in the cartilage that lines the socket of the hip joint), a loose body (a piece of bone or cartilage that breaks off and floats in the joint), or a synovial fold (a fold of tissue that sticks out into the joint).


Reproduced from The Body Almanac. © American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2003.
The illustration shows the bones of the hip joint, as well as the ligaments, tendons, and bursae that surround and protect the joint. Reproduced from The Body Almanac. © American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2003.


What are the risk factors for snapping hip syndrome?

Snapping hip syndrome can be influenced by various factors that increase the stress or friction on the structures around the hip joint. Some of these factors are:

  • Anatomical variations: Some people have variations in their hip joint anatomy that make them more prone to snapping hip syndrome. For example, some people have femoral anteversion (a condition where the femur is rotated inward) or coxa vara (a condition where the angle between the femur and the pelvis is smaller than normal). These variations can affect the alignment and movement of the hip joint and cause the tendons or muscles to snap over the bones more easily.

  • Activities: Some activities that involve repetitive or excessive movements of the hip joint can increase the risk of snapping hip syndrome. For example, running, cycling, dancing, gymnastics, martial arts, and yoga can put a lot of stress on the hip joint and cause the tissues around it to become tight or inflamed. These activities can also cause microtrauma or overuse injuries to the hip joint or surrounding tissues that can lead to snapping hip syndrome.

  • Age: Snapping hip syndrome can occur at any age, but it is more common in younger people who are more active and flexible. As people age, their tissues tend to become less elastic and more prone to degeneration or injury. This can affect the smoothness and stability of the hip joint and cause snapping hip syndrome.

  • Gender: Snapping hip syndrome is more common in women than in men. This may be due to differences in anatomy, hormones, or body fat distribution. Women tend to have wider hips, higher levels of estrogen, and more fat around their hips and thighs. These factors can affect the shape and function of the hip joint and cause snapping hip syndrome.

How to diagnose snapping hip syndrome?

Snapping hip syndrome can be diagnosed by a physical examination and medical history. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, activities, and medical history. They will also examine your hip and ask you to perform some movements that may trigger or reproduce the snapping or popping sound.

In some cases, your physician may order some imaging tests such as an X-ray, an ultrasound, or an MRI to rule out other possible causes of your hip pain or to confirm the diagnosis of snapping hip syndrome. These tests can also help identify any damage or inflammation in your hip joint or surrounding tissues.


How to treat snapping hip syndrome?

The treatment for snapping hip syndrome depends on the cause and severity of your condition. In most cases, conservative treatments are enough to relieve your symptoms and improve your function. These include:

  • Resting your hip and avoiding activities that aggravate your condition

  • Applying ice or heat to your hip to reduce pain and inflammation

  • Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen

  • Doing gentle stretching and strengthening exercises for your hip muscles

  • Getting physical therapy or massage therapy to improve your posture, alignment, and flexibility

  • Wearing a brace or a wrap to support your hip and reduce friction

  • Modifying your activities or changing your footwear to prevent further injury

Most cases of SHS improve with conservative treatment within 6-12 months. If conservative treatments do not work or if you have severe pain or damage to your hip joint, you may need surgery to correct the underlying problem. Surgery may involve removing any loose bodies or synovial folds from your joint, repairing any labral tears or tendon tears, releasing any tight muscles or tendons, or smoothing any rough edges on your bones.


How to prevent snapping hip syndrome?

Snapping hip syndrome can be prevented by taking some simple steps to protect your hips and keep them healthy. These include:

  • Warming up properly before exercising or doing any strenuous activities

  • Cooling down and stretching after exercising or doing any strenuous activities

  • Varying your activities and avoiding repetitive movements that put stress on your hips

  • Maintaining a healthy weight and a balanced diet

  • Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of fluids

  • Strengthening your core and lower body muscles, especially the hip muscles

  • Wearing proper shoes and equipment that support your hips and reduce impact

  • Practicing good posture and ergonomics when sitting, standing, or working

  • Consulting your physician or physical therapist if you have any hip pain or discomfort

  • Following your treatment plan and recommendations from your physician or physical therapist if you have Snapping Hip Syndrome

By following these tips, you can prevent snapping hip syndrome and keep your hips healthy and happy.


Snapping hip syndrome is a common condition that causes a snapping or popping sound in the hip joint. It can be caused by various factors that affect the structures around the hip joint. It may cause pain, discomfort, and reduced range of motion in the hip.

Snapping hip syndrome can be diagnosed by a physical examination and medical history. In some cases, imaging tests may be needed to rule out other causes or confirm the diagnosis. Snapping hip syndrome can be treated by conservative treatments such as rest, ice, pain relievers, exercises, physical therapy, and braces. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to correct the underlying problem.

Snapping hip syndrome can be prevented by taking some simple steps to protect your hips and keep them healthy. These include warming up, cooling down, stretching, varying your activities, maintaining a healthy weight and diet, staying hydrated, strengthening your muscles, wearing proper shoes and equipment, practicing good posture and ergonomics, consulting your physician or physical therapist, and following your treatment plan.


We hope this blog post has helped you learn more about snapping hip syndrome and how to deal with it. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. We would love to hear from you.


If you are looking for professional help with your snapping hip syndrome or any other musculoskeletal condition, please contact us at Jubilant. We are a team of experienced and qualified physical therapists who can help you with your recovery and wellness goals. We offer personalized and evidence-based treatments that suit your needs and preferences. Book an appointment today and let us help you get back to your best self.



Reference:

Via AG, Fioruzzi A, Randelli F (2017) Diagnosis and Management of Snapping Hip Syndrome: A Comprehensive Review of Literature. Rheumatology (Sunnyvale) 7: 228. doi:10.4172/2161-1149.1000228









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