Understanding Snapping Hip Syndrome

by Jsantos, October 7, 2013

Understanding Snapping Hip Syndrome

You might be more familiar with the name “dancer’s hip” than with snapping hip syndrome, but they both boil down to the same thing. For most people, this is nothing more than an annoyance, but in some patients, it can develop into something more serious. For those who routinely push their bodies farther than the rest of us, snapping hip syndrome can result in pain and even joint weakness.

What Causes Snapping Hip Syndrome?

This condition can have several different causes. WebMD notes that the most common cause is “the movement of a muscle or tendon over a bony structure in the hip.” This usually happens where the iliotibial band crosses the jutting part of the hipbone (the greater trochanter). As you move from a standing to sitting position, the band moves from behind the trochanter to the front, potentially causing the snapping sensation.

However, another potential cause of snapping hip syndrome is the movement of the iliopsoas tendon (this tendon connects the upper thigh to the inner part of the thigh). Yet another potential culprit here is trouble with the thigh’s ball joint. The ball joint fits into the hip socket in the pelvis. The rectus femoris tendon has to move back and forth across the hip’s ball joint when the joint flexes, and can cause a snapping sensation. Finally, broken or torn cartilage (or bone) within the hip joint itself can cause a snapping sensation (it can also cause the hip to lock in place).

Treating Snapping Hip Syndrome

There are several options for treating snapping hip syndrome. Generally, this condition will not require surgery even if it is causing pain and reduced movement. For milder conditions, patients are recommended to try icing the area or over-the-counter pain relievers. Reducing activity levels can also be an option, although not in the case of performers or athletes who have little control over the intensity of their activities. For these individuals, physical therapy offers important relief from symptoms.

Medical Examination

If you are unable to reduce your symptoms with at-home treatments or you’re unable to reduce your physical exertion level, it’s important to consult with an orthopedic surgeon. Your doctor will conduct a full examination, including checking your range of movement and at what point you experience the snapping. He or she will also go over your medical history. X-rays may also be required to determine the exact location and cause of your symptoms. This is usually done as a precaution to rule out other hip and bone-related problems, rather than to confirm snapping hip.

Physical Therapy for Snapping Hip

Several important physical therapy exercises can be used to help combat snapping hip syndrome. For instance, the piriformis stretch and the iliotibial band stretch can both provide benefits when performed correctly and on a regular schedule as determined by your physical therapist. Hamstring stretches and quadriceps stretches can also provide benefits.

Surgical Intervention

There are some instances when physical therapy and nonsurgical treatment will not provide benefits. In this instances (admittedly rare as they are), surgery is the final course of action. Hip arthroscopy might be necessary – this is a form of noninvasive surgery that allows the orthopedic surgeon to pinpoint problems like a torn labrum and make repairs or remove debris. A traditional open surgery might be called for in some instances. However, your course of treatment will vary based on your surgeon’s prognosis.

While surgery may be an option, most patients will find that physical therapy is all that’s required to treat snapping hip syndrome. However, in severe cases, those with the most demanding lifestyles may find they need to slow things down or take a limited amount of time off.








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