Snapping Hip Syndrome

Overuse of the muscles in the hip can sometimes lead to a group of symptoms called snapping hip syndrome. Although not usually painful, this condition may limit your activities, but in most cases, simple home remedies may be enough to improve your symptoms.  

What Is Snapping Hip Syndrome?

Your hip may feel like something is snapping when a muscle, ligament, or tendon rolls over a bony portion of the hip. This is known as the snapping hip syndrome, which can affect different areas of the hip:

  • In front, your hip flexor muscle may roll over the front of your hip bone. In other cases, your hip ligaments may roll over your thigh bone or somewhere in the hip joint.
  • At the side, your ITB (iliotibial band) may roll over your outer thigh bone. In other cases, the big muscle called gluteus maximus at the back of your hip may slide over your outer thigh bone.
  • At the back, your hamstring muscles may roll over the bottom of your hip bone.

Snapping hip often occurs when your hip muscles are used excessively, leading to fatigue, swelling and muscle tightness. This may result from athletic activities like cycling, soccer, track and field, horseback riding, gymnastics and dancing. However, it can also result from doing everyday activities that involve repeated forceful movement of your legs.

Snapping hip syndrome causes a sensation of snapping with a sound that may be felt in front, at the back, or at the side of your hip. It is often painless, but if it causes pain, it usually stops when leg movement is stopped. Sometimes, the snapping may be associated with weakness, which can lead to diminished performance in athletes and dancers.

It is most commonly experienced when you kick a leg forward or to your side, when you bring a leg behind your body, when you rotate your body or leg, or when you rise from a chair. Walking and running do not usually cause snapping, but these activities may be limited by pain related to snapping hip syndrome.

Other signs and symptoms of snapping hip syndrome include:

  • Snapping/popping sensation in the hip when lifting, swinging, or lowering the leg
  • Swelling and tightness in front or back of your hip
  • Weakness of the leg when lifting it forward/sideways
  • Difficulty doing daily activities, like walking or rising from a chair

What Causes Snapping Hip Syndrome?

Snapping hip syndrome consists of various mechanisms involving the bony architecture of your hip, which is surrounded by tendons, muscles and ligaments. Snapping hip may be described according to location (internal, external, or posterior).

There are different possible mechanisms, but the most common cause of snapping hip syndrome is sliding of the ITB over the greater trochanter (a protuberance) of the thigh bone. This causes an external snapping hip syndrome. It is also results from snapping of the outer border of the hind muscle (gluteus maximus) over the thigh bone.

Internal snapping hip syndrome may occur when your iliopsoas tendon slides over the iliopectineal eminence, which results in a "snapping" or "popping" sound. This usually occurs when you move your hip suddenly from a flexed and externally rotated position into extension. A less common cause is movement of the iliofemoral ligament over the head of the thigh bone or anterior capsule of the hip.

Movement of the tendon of the biceps femoris muscle over the ischial tuberosity at the back of the hip causes posterior snapping hip syndrome, which is uncommon.

How to Treat Snapping Hip Syndrome

Snapping hip syndrome usually improves after conservative treatment, but in some cases, medical and surgical treatment may be required.

1. Home Remedies for Mild Snapping Hip

Most people do not see a doctor for snapping hip syndrome unless they experience some pain. If your symptoms bother you, try the following conservative home treatments:

  • Rest and reduce your activity.
  • Apply ice to the affected area.
  • Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen to reduce your discomfort.
  • Avoid repetitive movements of the hip.

If you still experience discomfort after trying conservative treatments, consult your doctor.

2. Medical Treatments

  • Physical therapy. These consist of snapping hip syndrome stretches to strengthen the muscles around your hip under the guidance of a physical therapist. Here are 2 common types of stretch:


How to Do It

Iliotibial band stretch

  • To do this exercise, stand next to a wall and cross the leg close to the wall behind your other leg.
  • Now toward the wall with your hip until you can feel a stretch outside your hip. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat the process on the opposite hip. Do 2-3 sets of four repetitions on each side.

Piriformis stretch

  • To do this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Now cross the foot of the affected hip over the other knee, clasping your hands behind your opposite thigh, pull the thigh toward you until a stretch in your hip and buttock is felt.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds. Do the same on the opposite hip. Perform 2-3 sets of 4 reps on each side.
  • Steroid injection. Corticosteroid injection may be prescribed by your doctor to reduce inflammation, especially if you have hip bursitis.
  • Surgical treatment. If conservative treatments, such as snapping hip syndrome stretches do not work, surgery may be recommended. This may include:

Surgical Treatment


Hip arthroscopy

The surgeon inserts a small camera (arthroscope) into the hip joint to guide him, using thin surgical instruments. Small incisions (cuts) are needed for this type of surgery, usually to remove fragments or repair a torn portion of the joint.

Open surgery

Using traditional open incision, which may be required for better access to the hip joint.


Tips on Preventing Snapping Hip Syndrome

You can prevent experiencing snapping hip syndrome by practicing tips below:

  • Always start with warm-ups before heavy physical activity or sports. This should include stretching exercises taught by your physical therapist for the muscles of the hip.
  • Increase the intensity of your activity sport gradually. Avoid playing too hard, too soon, or too fast.
  • Adhere to a consistent exercise program that promotes strength and flexibility to maintain physical conditioning.
  • Wear appropriate, well-fitting shoes.