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Snapping Hip Syndrome

Snapping hip syndrome, sometimes called dancer's hip, is a condition in which you hear a snapping sound or feel a snapping sensation in your hip when you walk, run, get up from a chair, or swing your leg around. For most people, the condition is little more than an annoyance and the only symptom is the snapping sound or sensation itself. But for dancers or athletes, snapping hip syndrome symptoms may also include pain and weakness that interfere with performance.

Snapping Hip Syndrome Causes

In most cases, snapping is caused by the movement of a muscle or tendon over a bony structure in the hip.

The most common site is on the outside of the hip where a band of connective tissue known as the iliotibial band passes over part of the thigh bone that juts out -- called the greater trochanter. When you stand up straight, the band is behind the trochanter. When you bend your hip, however, the band moves over and in front of the trochanter. This may cause the snapping noise.

The iliopsoas tendon, which connects to the inner part of the upper thigh, can also snap with hip movement.

Another site of snapping is where the ball at the top of the thigh bone fits into the socket in the pelvis to form the hip joint. The snapping occurs when the rectus femoris tendon, which runs from inside the thighbone up through the pelvis, moves back and forth across the ball when the hip is bent and straightened.

Less commonly, a cartilage tear or bits of broken cartilage or bone in the joint space can cause snapping, or a loose piece of cartilage can cause the hip to lock up. This can cause pain and disability.

Snapping Hip Syndrome Treatment

Unless snapping hip syndrome is painful or causes difficulty in sports or other activities, many people do not see a doctor or have it treated.

For minor snapping syndrome pain, try home treatments such as:

  • Reducing or modifying activity
  • Applying ice
  • Using over-the-counter pain relievers

For more severe pain or pain that does not improve with home treatment, see your doctor.

Physical therapy with emphasis on stretching, strengthening, and alignment can often help. Sometimes, treatment with a corticosteroid injection to the area can relieve inflammation. In rare cases, doctors may recommend surgery.

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