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Snapping Hip Syndrome

What is Snapping hip syndrome?

This medical condition is one in which the person feels a snapping sensation or hear a snapping sound in their hip when they run, swing your leg around, walk, or get up from the chair. It is also referred to as a dancer’s hip. Snapping hip syndrome most often happens in people between the ages of fifteen and forty.


For most people with snapping hip syndrome the only symptom they experience is the snapping sensation or sound heard when you flex or extend your hip but with others, including athletes or dancers they may also experience:

  • Weakness when you try to lift your leg sideways or forward
  • Pain
  • Tightness in the back or front of your hip
  • Swelling in the side or front of your hip
  • Having difficulty performing daily activities like walking or getting out of a chair

With these additional two symptoms it could interfere with the dancers or athlete’s performance.


With most cases of snapping hip syndrome it is caused by a movement of the tendon or muscle over the bony structure in their hip. Some of these sites can include:

  • The most common area for this to occur is on the outside of the hip where the band of connective tissue called the Iliotibial band goes over part of your thighbone that sticks out called your greater trochanter. When a person bends their hip the band moves over and in front of your greater trochanter causing the snapping sensation or noise.
  • Your iliopsoas tendon, which can also cause the snapping sound or sensation when you move your hip and is a tendon that connects to the inner part of your upper thigh
  • The ball located at the top of your thighbone and fits into the socket in your pelvis and forms your hip joint, which happens when the rectus femoris tendon moves back and forth across this ball when you bend your hip and then straightened. This tendon runs from the inside of your thighbone up through your pelvis
  • Small pieces of broken bone or cartilage or cartilage tear in a joint space can cause a snapping sensation or sound but this is a less common cause
  • A piece of cartilage that is loose could cause your hip to lock up but this is also a less common cause
  • Physically and repetitive demanding movements in athletes and dancers
  • Military training
  • Any vigorous exercises
  • Repeated hip flexion
  • Excessive running or weightlifting due to the extreme thickness of the tendons in the hip area
  • Hip muscles that are used excessively and become tight, swollen and/or fatigued


Snapping hip syndrome can be diagnosed using an ultrasound during hip motions to look any of the possible causes of this syndrome. The physician will also do a physical exam and ask questions such as:

  • Were there any swelling within the first two to three hours after the injury or the snapping sound or sensation
  • If there was a direct hit to your leg
  • Where you felt the pain or snapping sensation
  • If there is any pain when you lift your leg backward or forward, lifting your knee, walking, or changing directions when running or walking
  • If you participate in any forceful or repetitive sport activities or dancing

The physician may ask you to lift your leg quickly or ask you to push against their hand when they try to push your leg backward, outward, and forward to test your muscle strength.


Most do not visit their physician for snapping hip syndrome or have any treatment unless it causes difficulty in their activities such as sports or is painful. For minor cases you can use home treatments for the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours such as:

  • Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation over-the-counter
  • Modifying or reducing activities
  • Applying ice every two hours for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time
  • Resting the injured hip

If home treatment does not help or there is moderate to severe pain you should see your physician. Sometimes physical treatment that includes stretching and alignment will help. Your physician may also give you a corticosteroid injection to help relieve the inflammation but these generally only last for weeks, maybe months. The downside of not having snapping hip syndrome treated is that the symptoms can last for months or years and in some cases it can be very painful.

Recommended exercises

Before you start any of these exercises for snapping hip syndrome you should check with your physician to make sure that they will not aggravate or prolong the situation.

  • Quadriceps stretch
  • Hamstring stretch
  • Piriformis stretch
  • Iliotibial band stretch

Ways to prevent Snapping hip syndrome

Before you start participating in a sport or dancing you should warm up by doing stretches for the muscles at the back, side, and front of your hip
Gradually increase the intensity of the sport or dance, making sure that you do not push too fast, too soon, or too hard
To maintain good physical conditioning follow a consistent flexibility and strength exercise program
Wear shoes that fit well and are in good condition.

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