Snapping Hip Syndrome

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The hip is an indispensable joint that enables us walk, run and jump. It’s not uncommon for the hip to succumb to certain conditions due to repetitive use and movement. Snapping hip syndrome typically results from tightness in the muscles and tendons surrounding the hip. Although typically harmless, this condition often affects athletes and dancers.

At OrthoAspen, our orthopedic hip experts value the active lifestyle of our active patients. We are dedicated to addressing snapping hip syndrome and other issues of the hip with safe and effective treatments to encourage a full recovery.

snapping hip syndrome

Causes & Symptoms

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). The labrum covers the acetabulum and seals it. Ligaments (tissue connecting bone to bone) and tendons (tissue connecting muscle to bone) encase the hip and control the hip movements.

Movement of the muscles or tendons over the bony protrusion in the hip region creates the snapping sound, indicative of snapping hip syndrome. Often, 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. The snapping can occur in the back, front or side of the hip. It’s usually painless and harmless, but may be accompanied with pain and weakness for some individuals.

It’s typical to hear or feel a snapping sound in the hip when swinging the legs, running, walking or while getting up from a chair. People who are involved in sports or dance that require repeat bending in the hip are most vulnerable—often affecting their performance.

Occasionally, the syndrome can lead to bursitis, a painful swelling of the fluid-filled sacs called bursae that cushion the hip joint.

Symptoms of snapping hip syndrome include:

  • Hip snapping that occurs with hip flexion and extension
  • Sensation of the hip feeling like it’s going to pop out of the socket
  • Hip popping accompanied by sharp, sudden pain
  • Pain that increases with activity
Diagnosis

To properly assess snapping hip syndrome, your OrthoAspen doctor will discuss your medical history and symptoms and will conduct a physical examination to detect the exact cause of hip 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.

Treatment

Rest and modification of activities may be suggested initially by your doctor followed by conservative therapeutic options. Conservative treatment options for snapping hip include:

Home Care

  • Application of ice to the affected area
  • NSAIDs to reduce discomfort
  • Avoidance of repetitive hip movements

Physical Therapy

  • Exercises to strengthen and stretch the musculature surrounding the hip
  • Tendon stretching exercises such as iliotibial (IT) band stretch and piriformis stretch (depending on the type of snapping you experience)

Corticosteroid Injection

Corticosteroid can be injected into the bursa to reduce pain and inflammation in the hip joint (in the event hip bursitis is present).

We always recommend consulting your doctor if discomfort persists even after following home protocols.

Although rare, surgery may be recommended when conservative approaches aren’t effective in resolving snapping hip syndrome. The type of surgery will depend on the factors that cause snapping hip. Surgical procedures include:

  • Hip Arthroscopy
    This procedure is usually used to remove or repair the torn labrum. An arthroscope (small camera) is inserted into the hip joint to enable small surgical instruments to display images on a large screen. Only small incisions are required for this procedure.
  • Open Procedure
    Open surgery can help your surgeon to gain better access to the source of the hip problem. An open incision of several centimeters will be made to resolve the issue of snapping hip syndrome.

Whether conservative treatment or surgery is prescribed for snapping hip syndrome, rest assured that your OrthoAspen doctor will do everything possible to ensure a full recovery—as safely and effectively as possible.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation, or call us at 970-544-1289.

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Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1110
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1110