People who suffer from snapping hips would recognise the feeling like the snapping or popping sensation they get in their hip during movements such as when they walk, stand up from a sitting position, or rotate their legs. An audible click can be heard when it happens, and it is not usually accompanied by any pain- although the feeling and sound can be a little disconcerting. It is often related to tightness in the muscles and tendons surrounding the hip. Athletes, dancers and people who are involved in activities that require a lot of repetitive bending are more likely to experience this in their life. The question most often asked about it is: is this condition something to be concerned about?
First, let’s look at what causes the snapping and what else you need to know…
WHAT CAUSES SNAPPING HIPS
Snapping Hip Syndrome, coxa saltans or dancer’s hip, as it is sometimes called, is usually caused by muscles or tendons sliding over each other or bony structures internal or external to the hip joint. In rare instances, it can be related to joint pathologies like a labrum, ligament or bone injury.
A “clicky” hip can usually be voluntarily produced by lifting a straight leg when lying down, or rolling the hip joint up and out to the side when standing. This type of snap/click is more likely attributed to the movement of the big hip muscles; quads, hip flexors and groin, when they move around/over each other, or if they flick past a bony prominence of the leg or pelvis, resulting in the audible and most often pain-free “snap” sound.
Deeper within the hip joint there are stabilising muscles that help the joint move smoothly. When these stabilising muscles are not performing optimally, often due to weakness or tightness, then the joint may become “clunky”, as the ball and socket struggle to move congruently with each other. This again causing the audible “clicking” sound.
Less commonly, a labral tear (cartilage) or bits of loose cartilage in the joint space can cause clicking and sometimes result in the hip locking up. This type of “snapping” is sometimes associated with pain due to the associated inflammation, and loss of movement as it interferes with the normal behaviour of the hip joint
WHAT IF THIS IS CAUSING PAIN?
If you are experiencing pain with a snapping hip or if your pain-free snapping hip is causing you concern, it is important to seek advice from a medical professional like a physiotherapist to determine the source of the problem. The physio may use various techniques to address the issue, including soft tissue work, joint mobilisation, and strengthening and mobility exercises. Depending on the cause of the problem the types of exercises and techniques used will vary between clients.
Secondary inflammatory issues like bursitis and tendonitis can often result from a snapping hip as the muscles and structures around the hip joint struggle to deal with the altered mechanics of the hip. Depending on the severity, and in consultation with your physio, it may be deemed necessary to use some anti-inflammatory creams or tablets as an adjunct to treatment to quicken the process.
If all treatment options have been exhausted with the physio and yet there is still no improvement in the condition, then referral to a specialist for further imaging and opinion may be warranted.
IS IT OKAY TO LIVE WITH A SNAPPING HIP?
Many people are able to live their lives with a snapping hip and are simply aware that certain movements result in the joint making a pop or clicking sound. So long as there is little to no discomfort involved and activity levels are not affected, generally, there is no treatment required. If the snapping hip becomes inflamed or irritated and begins to impact movement and activity, then seeking out some advice before the problem gets worse is the best course of action.
If you are having difficulty moving due to a snapping hip or are experiencing pain, we are here for you. Make an appointment to see how we can help you with your treatment plan and get you moving again.