Snapping Hip Syndrome: Causes, Types, Diagnosis, and Treatment

snapping hip syndromeSnapping hip syndrome can be slightly annoying for some people and a major problem for others, especially those who are athletes or professional dancers.

What is snapping hip syndrome? Simply put, it’s a snapping sound or sensation in the hip when you walk, run, rise from a sitting position, or swing your leg around. If you’re an athlete or a dancer, snapping hip can interfere with your performance.



What Are the Causes and Types of Snapping Hip Syndrome?

While snapping hip syndrome (SHS) is often the result of your hip tendon or muscle sliding over bone, snapping hip syndrome causes really depend on the type of SHS you have. There are three different types.

Internal SHS:

This form of snapping hip syndrome happens when your hip muscle slides over the front of your hip joint. This is likely due to your iliopsoas tendon moving over the pelvic bone.

The iliopsoas tendon connects your inner hip muscles to your thighbone. Your quadriceps muscle moving over the ball part of your hip’s ball-and-socket joint can also cause internal SHS.

People who experience internal snapping hip syndrome usually notice a gradual onset of symptoms that slowly get worse. Pain and a popping noise are common when running. Some people refer to this as SHS at the front of the hip. It is the most commonly diagnosed type of snapping hip.

External SHS:

Another common type of snapping hip syndrome, this occurs when the iliotibial band slides over the top of your femur. The sliding causes tension then a release and snapping sensation at the outside of the hip.

People who experience this often report snapping while climbing stairs or running. Pain and tenderness on the outside of the hip is common with external SHS. Lying on the hip can be very uncomfortable.

Intra-articular SHS:

When we talk about what causes snapping hip syndrome, we have to look at intra-articular SHS. It isn’t caused by a muscle or tendon; it’s usually the result of a hip joint injury, such as articular cartilage injury, acetabular labral injury, or broken bone fragments.

When someone has an acetabular labral tear, they are experiencing an injury to the cartilage that rings the hip socket. With articular cartilage injuries, the cartilage that covers bones’ surfaces where they meet one another can be damaged by injury or disease, such as arthritis. People with intra-articular SHS often have limited range of motion in the hip.

Also read: Iliopsoas bursitis: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and exercises

Symptoms That May Accompany Snapping Hip Syndrome

While snapping hip syndrome creates an audible snapping or clicking noise, there are cases where it doesn’t involve pain. Most people hear and feel a popping sensation when flexing their hip. Below we outline the most common snapping hip syndrome symptoms.

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty walking or rising from a chair
  • Feeling as if your hip is coming out of place

Also read: Muscle fatigue: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Diagnosing Snapping Hip Syndrome

Snapping hip syndrome diagnosis isn’t easy. The hip joint is located deep inside the body, so pinpointing exactly what is wrong can be challenging; however, the doctor will go through a number of steps to come to a proper conclusion.

Diagnosis begins by interviewing the patient, discussing symptoms, and conducting a physical exam. Medical tests, such as X-rays and MRIs may also be carried out. An X-ray can give doctors a good view of bones, while an MRI depicts the state of tendons, ligaments, and tissues.

To diagnose snapping hip syndrome, a doctor has to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms, including arthritis, tumors, and hip joint synovitis.

Treatment Methods for Snapping Hip Syndrome

If you experience minor pain, snapping hip syndrome treatment can be handled at home. You can reduce or modify your activity, apply ice, or use over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary.

In some cases, people don’t need to do any of the above because they don’t feel pain or any other symptoms. In more serious situations, where pain is severe or doesn’t respond to home methods, you should consider seeking medical attention. Some doctors will suggest physical therapy, including stretching and strengthening exercises. There are also cases where treatment for snapping hip syndrome includes corticosteroid injections. The injections can help relieve inflammation.

It’s unfortunate, but some people do require surgery. The good news is that surgical treatment for SHS is rare. If surgery is suggested, the type of procedure will largely depend on the underlying cause of the snapping hip. The most common surgical procedures include the following:

  • Iliotibial Band Release: Lengthens the iliotibial band to reduce tension and snapping.
  • Iliopsoas Tendon Release: Lengthens the iliopsoas tendon to decrease hip snapping.
  • Arthroscopic Hip Debridement: Removes debris from the hip joint area.

Exercises for Snapping Hip Syndrome


Just like other treatments vary, snapping hip syndrome exercises are different depending on the type of hip syndrome you suffer from. Here we cover off exercises and snapping hip syndrome stretches that may be recommended to you if you suffer from the condition.

  • Quadriceps Stretch: Stand arm’s length away from a wall and place the hand opposite of the painful hip against the wall. Take the other hand and hold the ankle of the painful hip then pull your ankle up towards your buttocks. Hold for about 30 seconds and release.
  • Hamstring Stretch: Lie on your back on the floor in a doorway. Your upper body should be on one side of the doorway and your lower on the other, while the painful hip is against the doorframe. Raise the painful leg and rest it against the wall next to the doorframe and hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Piriformis Stretch: Lie on your back with both knees bent and place the foot of your uninjured leg flat on the floor and rest the ankle of your painful leg over the knee of your uninjured leg. You then hold the thigh of the uninjured leg and pull the knee toward your chest. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and release.
  • Iliotibial Band Stretch: Stand with your legs together then cross your uninjured leg in front of the painful leg. Bend down and touch your toes. Hold this position for about 30 seconds then return to the starting position and repeat.
  • Hip Flexor Stretch: Kneel on your painful leg and put the opposite leg in front. With your back straight, push your hips forward, stretching until you feel a slight bit of tension in the upper thigh of your painful hip. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Bridges: Lie on your back with both knees bent at 90 degrees. Lift your hips off the floor and hold this stretch for about six seconds. You should then lower your hips back down to the floor and repeat up to 10 times.
  • Clamshell: Lie on your side with the affected leg on top. Keeping legs together and bending your knees, raise your top knee, keeping your feet together. Your legs will look like a clamshell when they are opened. Hold this stretch for a few seconds and then slowly lower your knee back down. Repeat up to 10 times.

Snapping hip syndrome is often painless but can progress to gradual discomfort and even pain. While many people can treat this condition at home, if snapping, popping, or clicking is paired with pain and you are having difficulty with movement, you should seek medical advice. The more serious cases of SHS do require physical therapy or other treatments.

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Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.


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