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Snapping Hip Syndrome

What Causes Your Hips to Snap, Click, and Pop

byward chiropractic clinic + massage therapy centre snapping hip blog post

Snap, click, pop! Do your hips make those noises when you get out of a chair, walk down the stairs, or do yoga?

Snapping hip syndrome is a condition defined by a snapping, clicking, or popping sensation in or around the hip. The sound occurs when the hip is moved in certain directions. This condition is also known as coxa saltans or dancer’s hip. Most often, it is due to tightness in the muscles and tendons surrounding the pelvis. People involved in sports or activities that require repeated bending at the hips are most likely to experience snapping hip syndrome. It’s most commonly identified in sprinters, dancers, and gymnasts. Young athletes also have a greater risk of developing this condition. This is due to the tightness in muscles that occurs during adolescent growth spurts.

So why can our hips cause all sorts of noises as they move?  The sound and sensation can be caused by external or internal structures of the hip. When the cause is external, the snapping is coming from a muscle or tendon moving over a bony protrusion around the hip. The good news is that your hip is not actually snapping. The bad news is it can be uncomfortable and annoying. Snapping hip syndrome can be categorized into three different causes.

 

1. Internal or Anterior Snapping Hip Syndrome

Internal and anterior snapping hips are the most common types of snapping hip syndrome. The first, internal snapping hip syndrome is caused by the iliopsoas tendon. The iliacus and psoas muscles join to form this tendon. It travels through the pelvis and attaches to the inner part of the upper thigh. The anterior form is caused by the quadriceps tendon at the front of the hip. When this tendon moves over the ball of the hip joint, it can create a loud and deep pop. Both internal and anterior forms can cause popping when running, going up the stairs, or doing leg raises. The sound can be heard and sensation can be felt when rising out of a chair or rotating the hip away from the body. Sharp and sudden pain at the front of the hip or within the groin can be felt. Pain is often worse with repeated activity and better with rest.

 

2. External Snapping Hip Syndrome

External snapping is most commonly caused by the iliotibial band (ITB) or gluteus maximus tendon. Both of those muscle groups and tendons are located on the outside of the hip. As they pass over the greater trochanter, a bony protrusion on the thigh, they can make a loud pop. Tightness in the gluteal muscles can contribute to this form of snapping hip. Like internal and anterior types, external snapping hip syndrome can be a painless annoyance but it can also become painful over time or with repeated use.

3. Cartilage Injury Related Snapping Hip Syndrome

The cause of snapping hip syndrome can also be from inside the hip joint. Tears of the acetabular labrum or loose bodies in the hip joint can be causes. This is less common and is often associated with pain. It may develop after a fall or trauma. It is often associated with a catching sensation with or without a decreased hip range of motion. For some, this can lead to hip weakness. It can also interfere with performance.

What Can You Do?

If you experience snapping hip syndrome, let your chiropractor and massage therapist know. A thorough consultation and assessment will help determine if your hip sounds are caused by tight muscles and tendons or by something deeper. If the cause is internal, further assessment may be advised. When the cause is tightness in structures surrounding the hip, stretching, foam rolling, and modifying activity can help. Pelvis and hip alignment with chiropractic adjustments are key to prevent recurrence. A deep tissue massage can also help make a more lasting change in the tissues. Correcting the way weight is transferred up and down the leg may be necessary with custom foot orthotics. Your chiropractor and massage therapist can recommend specific self-care tips and lifestyle modifications to help you keep your hips from developing painful snapping.

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