By: Daniel Johnson, PT, Director of Rehabilitation Services
Snapping hip is a condition where an individual feels a snapping or popping sensation with certain movements of the hip. This condition may elicit pain or may be totally painless. Most times it tends to be painless but still annoying. Most commonly, snapping hip occurs when a muscle or tendon slides over a bony prominence in the hip. This usually occurs in two different areas of the hip. Most frequently, the snapping will come from the outer portion of the hip. This is an area where the iliotibial (IT) band passes over the bony protrusion called the greater trochanter. Individuals, who have a tight IT band, tend to experience this most frequently. The second most common source of snapping hip originates from the front of the hip, and involves the iliopsoas and/or rectus femoris tendon.
Less common sources of snapping can come from the back of the hip when the hamstring tendon slides over the ischial tuberosity. Another less common source of snapping hip is a labral tear. The labrum is a cartilaginous structure that lines and deepens the “socket” of the hip. Labral tears not only cause a popping or catching of the hip, but are also most often quite painful.
Causes of snapping hip are most often the result of tightness in the muscles/tendons that surround the hip. Young athletes are most frequently susceptible during growth spurts, when muscle tightness is most common.
Treatment of snapping hip involves exercise to both stretch and strengthen muscles that support and surround the hip joint. If snapping is painful, it is always advisable to seek medical attention, as diagnostic studies may be needed to determine the best course of treatment.