Snapping Hip Syndrome | Dancer’s Hip

Snapping Hip Syndrome

Snapping hip syndrome (also called dancer’s hip, clicking hip syndrome, or popping hip syndrome) is a condition where normal hip movements are accompanied by a snapping sound or sensation. This snapping or popping sensation occurs when inflamed, swollen or over-tight muscles and tendons in the hip area move over the bony knobs in the hip. For many people, snapping hip syndrome can be harmless and merely annoying. However, for dancers and athletes who have more hip movements, this condition can be painful as well. The snapping sensation is usually felt in the hip during raising and lowering of the leg, or with twisting motion of the hip.

The Anatomy of Dancer's Hip

The ball-and-socket hip joint consists of the femur (thighbone) which sits in a socket in the pelvis. There are many muscles and ligaments in the hip joint that control the hip movement. Tendons attach the muscles to the bones in the hip joint. Through overuse or injuries, these muscles and tendons can get inflamed and enlarged. Also, sometimes the muscles are tight due to various reasons. In their enlarged state or tight condition, the muscles and tendons can catch on the ball-and-socket joint and other bony protrusions in the hip as they move over them, leading to the snapping sensation and sound.

There are several common areas in the hip which are prone to snapping hip syndrome:

  • Front of the hip: The rectus femoris tendon can cause the snapping sensation at the front of the hip, where the top of the thighbone sits in the pelvis. The iliopsoas tendon can also snap at the front and inner side of the hip.  
  • Outside of the hip: The most common snapping sensation is felt at the outside of the hip where the iliotibial band of tissue passes over the section of thigh bone that juts out.
  • Back of the hip: The hamstring tendon can cause snapping in the back of the hip near the buttock region.
  • Damaged cartilage: In rare cases, torn or loose cartilage, bits of broken cartilage or bones can enter the joint space and can cause the hip to lock up. Besides the snapping sensation, this is often painful and can cause disability.

Causes of Snapping Hip Syndrome 

The snapping sensation typically occurs due to tightness in muscles or tendons, or due to inflammation of the tendons causing some enlargement.

  • This condition usually occurs due to overuse and is seen often with dancers (hence the term “dancer’s hip”).
  • Tendonitis in any of the related tendons in the hip area can lead to this condition
  • Athletes that have a lot of motion in the hip are also prone to this condition due to tightness in the muscles and tendons of this area.
  • People who are involved in activities that require repeated bending at the hip are also likely to experience snapping hip.
  • Adolescent athletes are also more likely to have snapping hip due to muscle tightness during growth spurts.

Symptoms of Snapping hip Syndrome 

Common symptoms of snapping hip syndrome include:Snapping Hip Syndrome

  • A snapping sensation felt in the hip with leg or hip movement
  • A clicking sound that can be heard in the hip during movement
  • Moderate to severe pain in the affected hip
  • Tenderness in the affected hip
  • Pain may be sharp and sudden with certain movements
  • Complications may include developing bursitis (inflammation of the bursae).

Treatment of Snapping Hip Syndrome 

While snapping hip syndrome can be harmless in many cases, it can progress to more serious problems like bursitis if left untreated. In some cases, the symptoms may be obvious only when the condition has progressed considerably.

  • Treatment options usually involve treating the underlying cause of tendonitis.
  • Rest and restriction from the activity that is causing the clicking sensation in the hip is the first suggested course of action.
  • Ice application and over-the-counter pain medications are also advised to treat the pain and inflammation from the tendonitis.
  • Physical therapy and exercises to stretch and flex the muscles in the hip area can be very helpful in managing snapping hip syndrome.

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