Snapping hip syndrome refers to a snapping or popping sensation that occurs in the side, front, or back of your hip when you forcefully lift, lower, or swing your leg. Snapping hip makes it more difficult to perform activities such as lifting, kicking, or twisting your leg, getting up from a chair, walking, running or cycling. While the condition most often affects dancers and athletes, a snapping hip can occur in anyone performing forceful leg movements. Snapping hip is mostly seen in people 15 to 40 years of age.
What is Snapping Hip Syndrome?
- Front. Snapping at the front of the hip can involve the hip flexor muscle rolling over the front of the hip bone, or the hip ligaments rolling over the thigh bone or tissues of the hip joint.
- Side. This condition involves the ITB (iliotibial band) rolling over the outer thigh bone or the big muscle on the back of the hip (gluteus maximus) sliding over the outer thigh bone.
- Back. This condition involves one of the hamstring muscles rolling over the bottom of the hip bone.
Snapping hip can occur when the hip muscles are excessively used and become fatigued, tight, and/or swollen.
Athletic activities like track and field, soccer, horseback riding, cycling, gymnastics, and dance can trigger the condition. It can also occur during everyday activities that require repeated forceful movement of the legs.
How Does Hip Snapping Syndrome Feel?
- Snapping or popping in the front, side, or back of hip when lifting, lowering, or swinging the leg
- Weakness in the leg when trying to lift it forward or sideways
- Tightness in the front or back of the hip
- Swelling in the front or side of the hip
- Difficulty performing daily activities such as rising from a chair and walking
How Is Hip Snapping Syndrome Diagnosed?
- How you injured your hip and if you heard a pop when you suffered the injury
- If you feel snapping, popping, or pain
- Where you feel the snapping or pain
- If you experienced a direct hit to the leg
- If you saw swelling in the first 2 to 3 hours following the injury
- If you experience pain when lifting your leg forward or backward, walking, changing directions while walking or running, or when lifting the knee
- If you participate in any repetitive, forceful, or plyometric (quick explosive jumping) sport activities.
Your physical therapist also will perform special tests to help determine whether you have a snapping hip, such as:
- Asking you to lift your leg quickly
- Asking you to push against the physical therapist’s hand when he or she tries to push your leg outward, backward, and forward (muscle strength test)
- Gently feeling the muscle to determine the specific location of the injury (palpation)
Your therapist may use additional tests to assess possible damage to other parts of your body, such as your hip joint or lower back.
To provide a definitive diagnosis, your therapist may collaborate with a physician or other health care provider. The physician may order further tests—such as an x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—to confirm the diagnosis and also to rule out other potential damage. However, these tests are not commonly needed for snapping hip syndrome.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help Treat Hip Snapping Syndrome?
- Rest the injured hip by avoiding walking or any activity that causes pain. In rare cases, crutches may be recommended to reduce further strain on the muscles when walking.
- Apply ice packs to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 hours.
- Consult with another health care provider for further services such as medication or diagnostic tests.
Certain exercises will benefit your injury at each stage of recovery, and your physical therapist will choose and teach you the appropriate exercises that will restore your strength, power, and agility. These may be performed using free weights, stretchy bands, weight-lifting equipment, and cardio exercise machines such as treadmills and stationary bicycles. For snapping hip syndrome, muscles of the hip and core are often targeted by the strength exercises.
Speed Recovery Time
Return to Activities
Prevent Future Re-injury
If Surgery Is Necessary
Can Hip Snapping Syndrome be Prevented?
- Warming up before starting a sport or heavy physical activity. Your warm-up should include stretches taught to you by your physical therapist, including those for the muscles on the front, side, and back of the hip.
- Gradually increasing the intensity of an activity or sport. Avoid pushing too hard, too fast, too soon.
- Following a consistent strength and flexibility exercise program to maintain good physical conditioning, even in a sport’s off-season.
- Wearing shoes that are in good condition and fit well.
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