Hip Snapping Syndrome

Hip Snapping Syndrome by Steven Rozov

Many people experience an audible “snapping” or “popping” sensation at their hip when moving their legs while walking, performing exercises, or going up stairs. This sound may also be accompanied by a painful or burning sensation that often starts out tolerable but becomes a constant pain that may feel very debilitating. There can be different causes to hip snapping syndrome which is why evaluation by a skilled professional such as an orthopedic or physical therapist is important in order to attain the correct diagnosis and therefore correct treatment.

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint created when the thigh bone known as the femur attaches into the socket in the pelvis called the acetabulum. The hip is a joint with incredible mobility that is necessary for running, jumping, squatting, lunging, getting up and down from the floor, and many other functional activities. Many muscles run across the hip joint including the hip flexors which are located in the front of the hip and act to bring the leg up. Other muscles include the glutes which are located on the back and outside of the hip and act to create stability within the joint as well as power to allow the legs to “push”.  The adductors are the groin muscles that exist on the inside of the hip and also work to generate power and stability within the hip joint. There are also many ligaments along the hip joint that help keep the femur stable within the pelvis. Other than the hip the pelvis is also capable of creating motion necessary for daily function; therefore motion of the pelvis will directly influence actions and functions of the hip joint.

One reason for audible snapping and pain can be the fault of the iliopsoas muscle. This is a hip flexor muscle and comes from the lumbar spine and pelvis to attach to the inside of the top of the femur. Often times different imbalances and postures can result in a poor length tension relationship between the iliopsoas and other muscles; resulting in the muscle snapping over bony prominences with movement of the legs. After a while when enough friction is created from the muscle rubbing against the bony prominences, pain may become constant. This condition may often happen to people with weak glute and core stability which will result in excess movement of the pelvis putting the iliopsoas muscle into a bad position. This condition can be easily correct with a proper strengthening and stabilization program in physical therapy.

People with IT band syndrome may also be prone to a painful snapping at the hip. The IT band is a thick fibrous band running down the outside of the thigh from the glutes all the way down into the knee. The IT band is prone to getting “stuck” between the quad muscles and hamstrings; frequent running and jumping activities may often cause this. Poor core and glute stability can also result in IT band syndrome resulting in the IT band snapping over a bony prominence of the femur called the great trochanter. This can also be easily managed with physical therapy involving stretching and strengthening exercises.

Another reason for painful “popping” and snapping at the hip can be a labral tear. The labrum acts as a thick and fibrous cup located in the acetabulum that improves hip congruency. Labral tears can be caused by trauma, non-contact sports injuries, or deformities of the hip bone. The prognosis for a labral tear depends on the extent and location of the injury so careful examination is important. A labral tear can sometimes managed conservatively and other times surgery is needed to correct this. If a labral tear is not properly managed, this can result in osteoarthritis inside the hip joint. A skilled physical therapist will often be able to tell the difference between a labral tear and other causes with careful examination and testing.

While there are many other reasons hip snapping syndrome can occur, careful diagnosis by a healthcare professional is important. Most can be diagnosed and treated easily by a physical therapist.home excersize

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