What is Snapping Hip Syndrome? 

Most of the time, this syndrome is not painful. However, it can cause pain and weakness that makes it hard to move or use the hip.

The snapping can also lead to a condition called bursitis. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that cushions the bone from other moving parts, such as tendons, muscles, and skin. Bursae help your joints work smoothly. Bursitis is when a bursa becomes irritated or inflamed, and usually happens with injury or joint overuse. This snapping sensation happens when the tendon or muscle that is in the hip slides over one of the bony protrusions in your hip. This hip snapping can happen in different areas of the hip where muscles and tendons slide over knobby bumps in the hip bones.

Some places where hip snapping can occur is the:

  • Outside of the hip, where the IT band passes over the greater trochanter [tro-CAN-ter] on the outside of your hip.
  • Front of the hip, where the rectus femoris tendon moves across the head of the thighbone (femur).
  • Back of the hip, where the hamstring starts at the ischial tuberosity (sit bone).

In some cases, hip snapping may be caused by a problem with loose the cartilage.

Symptoms

The symptoms of snapping hip syndrome may include:

  • Snapping in the front, back, or side of the leg when moving the hip
  • Tightness in the hip, usually the front or the back
  • Swelling in the hip
  • Weakness in the leg
  • Having a hard time moving the hip, such as when standing from a sitting position

When to See a Doctor 

Most of the time, snapping hip syndrome is not painful. However, if you experience pain or swelling that does not go away after a few weeks, you should see a doctor to figure out what is going on. 

Causes

Most of the time, snapping hip syndrome is caused by a tight muscle or tendon moving over one of the bony knobs in the hip. Many times, this muscle tightness is found in athletes, and caused by overuse. This condition is especially common in young athletes as the hips become very tight during growth spurts. It is also common in dancers of all ages. 

Diagnosis and Tests

To help diagnose your condition, your doctor will ask about your medical history, your injury, and your symptoms. 

Your doctor may also ask you to move your hip to try and get the hip to snap so they can see where the problem is. 

Your doctor may also request imaging tests, such as a CT scan or x-ray, to make sure there is nothing wrong with the inside of the hip. 

Treatments & Prevention

Treatments

Most of the time, snapping hip syndrome is not painful. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Over-the-counter pain medicine

Your doctor may also suggest physical therapy, or specific stretches or strengthening exercises that may help relieve symptoms. If your condition does not get better, or even gets more painful, your doctor may recommend other treatments, such as corticosteroid injections, or even surgery.