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What is Snapping Hip?

Aptly named, snapping hip describes a condition in which you feel a snap on the outside of your hip as you walk or run. This sensation of snapping is caused by a tight iliopsoas muscle or tensor fascia lata. These groups of muscles cross the hip as they pass from your thigh bone to your pelvis and when tight can cause pain. 

Symptoms of Snapping Hip

The primary symptom is the feel of snapping in your hip as you walk or run. It may happen frequently or just occasionally. 

Diagnosis of Snapping Hip

Your doctor will examine your hip and thigh likely asking you to move your leg forward while feeling the various muscle groups in that area.

Treatment for Snapping Hip

Since snapping hip is often caused by muscle imbalances, your doctor will give you exercises to both strengthen and stretch your hip and thigh muscles. If you are experiencing pain from snapping hip, you may be given a prescription for an anti-inflammatory medicine. (Note: Adults aged 65 years and older should not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine for more than seven days without a doctor’s approval.)

If you experience swelling or inflammation in the hip or surrounding muscles, your doctor may also recommend icing it for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours for a few days or until the pain goes away.

Prevention of snapping hip syndrome

You may prevent snapping hip by regularly stretching the muscles that cross the hip from thigh bone to pelvis. 

Common rehab exercises for Snapping Hip include:

Quad stretch: Brace yourself against a wall or chair back with one arm. With the other hand, grab the ankle of the opposite leg and pull your heel toward your buttocks. Don’t arch or twist your back. Keep your knees together. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 3 times on each side. 

Hamstring stretch on a wall: Lie on your back with your buttocks close to a doorway. Extend your legs straight in front of you and along the floor. Raise one leg and rest it against the wall next to the door frame. Your other leg will extend through the doorway. You should feel a stretch in the back of your elevated thigh. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 3 times on each side. 

Glute stretch: Also called the figure-four stretch. Lie on your back with both knees bent. Rest the ankle of one leg on the knee of your other leg. Grab the thigh of the bottom leg and pull that knee toward your chest. You will feel a stretch along your buttocks and possibly along the outside of your hip on the top leg. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 3 times on each side. 

IT band stretch: Stand sideways near a wall. Place one hand on the wall for support. Cross the leg farthest from the wall over the other leg, keeping the foot closest to the wall stable. Lean your hips into the wall. You should feel a stretch along the hip closest to the wall. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 3 times on each side. 

Prone hip extension: Lie on your stomach with your legs straight out behind you. Your hands should be pressed on the floor near your rib cage. Tighten up your glutes (buttocks) and lift one leg off the floor about 8 inches while keeping your knee straight. Hold for 5 seconds and then lower your leg and relax. Do 3 sets of 10 on each side. 

Side-lying leg lift: Lying on your side, cradle your head in your lower arm and rest your upper arm wherever comfortable. People often find it useful to lightly brace the upper arm on the floor in front of your chest for balance. Tighten the front thigh muscles on your top leg. Keeping your legs straight, lift the top leg 8-10 inches away from the other leg – which remains on the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and then lower your leg and relax. Do 3 sets of 10 on each side. 

FAQ: When can I return to sports or activity?

If you return to full activity too soon, you risk worsening your injury or causing permanent damage. Recovery time is not determined by a set number of days or weeks but when your hip is recovered. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to heal. 

When you can progress thru this list, in order, you are likely ready to return to action:

  1. You have full range of motion in the injured hip as compared to the uninjured hip.
  2. You have full strength in the injured hip as compared to the uninjured hip.
  3. You can job straight ahead without pain or limping. 
  4. You can sprint straight ahead without pain or limping. 
  5. You can do 45-degree cuts, first at half speed and then at full speed. 
  6. You can do 20-yard figure eights, first at half speed and then at full speed. 
  7. You can do 90-degree cuts, first at half speed and then at full speed. 
  8. You can do 10-yard figure eights, first at half speed and then at full speed. 
  9. You can jump on both legs without pain and you can jump on the injured leg alone without pain.