The hip is an important joint that helps us walk, run and jump. The ball-and-socket joint in the hip is formed between the round end of the femur (thighbone) and the cup-shaped socket of the acetabulum (part of the hip bone). Joint stability in the hip region is achieved through the labrum (a strong fibrous cartilage), which covers the acetabulum and seals it, and ligaments (tissue connecting bone to bone) and tendons (tissue connecting muscle to bone) that encase the hip and control the hip movements.
What is snapping hip syndrome?
Snapping hip syndrome is a condition in which you hear or feel a snapping in the hip while swinging your legs, running, walking or while getting up from the chair. Movement of the muscles or tendons over a bony protrusion in the hip region gives rise to the snapping sound, which can occur in the front or side of the hip. It is usually painless and harmless, but may be accompanied with pain and weakness in some. People who are involved in sports or dance where they must repeatedly perform certain extreme hip motions are most vulnerable and it may affect their performance. Sometimes, the syndrome can lead to bursitis, a painful swelling of the fluid-filled sacs called bursae that cushion the structures around the hip joint.
The most common cause of snapping hip syndrome is tightness in the muscles and tendons surrounding the hip. Sometimes, a loose piece of cartilage, a cartilage tear or pieces of broken cartilage or bone in the joint space can lead to the snapping sound. This may also lock the hip causing disability along with the pain. However, this is less common.
We will discuss your medical history and symptoms with you, and will conduct a physical examination to detect the exact cause of snapping. You may be asked to reproduce the snapping sound by moving your hip in different directions. Imaging tests may be ordered by your doctor to rule out bone and joint problems.
Rest and modification of activities may be suggested initially by your doctor followed by conservative therapeutic options. The therapeutic strategies for snapping hip include:
A few home remedies can be followed if you experience minor snapping hip pain, which include:
- Applying ice to the affected area
- Using NSAIDs to reduce discomfort
- Avoiding repetitive hip movements that cause the snapping by changing your activities
We may recommended that you work with a physical therapist to teach you certain exercises to strengthen and stretch the musculature surrounding the hip. Tendon stretching exercises such as iliotibial band stretch and hip flexor / iliopsoas stretch will be indicated depending on the type of snapping you experience.
A corticosteroid injection to the bursa may be recommended to reduce the pain and inflammation in the hip.
Surgery is recommended when conservative approaches do not have an effect in resolving the snapping hip syndrome (which is rare). The type of surgery will depend on the factors that cause snapping hip.
Surgery for snapping hip must be considered carefully, as lengthening or release of certain snapping tendons may lead to chronic residual weakness.