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.
Snapping Hip Syndrome Stretches
Recommended exercises to treat snapping hip syndrome will vary depending on the type of snapping hip syndrome you have. Snapping hip syndrome stretches may include:
Quadriceps stretch. Standing arm's length from a wall, place the hand opposite the painful hip against the wall for support. With your other hand, take hold of the ankle of the painful leg and, keeping your knees together, pull your ankle up toward your buttocks. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and release. Repeat three times.
Hamstring stretch. Lie flat on your back on the floor in a doorway so that your upper body is on one side of the doorway and your lower body is on the other and the painful hip is against the door frame. Raise the painful leg and rest it against the wall next to the door frame. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and then lower. Repeat three times.
Piriformis stretch. Lying on your back with both knees bent, 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. Take hold of the thigh of the uninjured leg and pull the knee toward your chest. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and release. Repeat three times.
Iliotibial band stretch. Standing with your legs together, cross your uninjured leg in front of the painful leg, then bend down and touch your toes. Hold for 30 seconds, then return to starting position. Repeat three times.