Snapping Hip

Snapping hip is a condition in which you feel a snapping sensation or hear a popping sound in your hip when you walk, get up from a chair, or swing your leg around.

The snapping sensation occurs when a muscle or tendon (the strong tissue that connects muscle to bone) moves over a bony protrusion in your hip.

Although snapping hip is usually painless and harmless, the sensation can be annoying. In some cases, snapping hip leads to bursitis, a painful swelling of the fluid-filled sacs that cushion the hip joint.


Snapping hip is most often the result of tightness in the muscles and tendons surrounding the hip. People who are involved in sports and activities that require repeated bending at the hip are more likely to experience snapping hip. Dancers are especially vulnerable.

Young athletes are also more likely to have snapping hip. This is because tightness in the muscle structures of the hip is common during adolescent growth spurts.


Medical History and Physical Examination
Your Wisconsin Bone & Joint orthopedic surgeon will first determine the exact cause of the snapping by discussing you medical history and symptoms, and conducting a physical examination. He or she may ask you where it hurts, what kinds of activities bring on the snapping, whether you can demonstrate the snapping, or whether you have experienced any injury to the hip area.

You may also be asked to stand and move your hip in various directions to reproduce the snapping. Your doctor may even be able to feel the tendon moving as you bend or extend your hip.

Imaging Tests
X-rays create clear pictures of dense structures, like bone. Although x-rays of people with snapping hip do not typically show anything abnormal, your doctor may order x-rays along with other tests to rule out any problems with the bones or joint.


Initial treatment typically involves a period of rest and modification of activities. Depending upon the cause of your snapping hip, your doctor may also recommend other conservative treatment options.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Physical Therapy
Your doctor may prescribe exercises to stretch and strengthen the musculature surrounding the hip. Guidance from a physical therapist may also be recommended.

Iliotibial Band Stretch

  • Stand next to a wall for support
  • Cross the leg that is closest to the wall behind your other leg.
  • Lean your hip toward the wall until you feel a stretch at the outside of your hip. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Perform 2 to 3 sets of 4 repetitions each side.

Piriformis Stretch

  • Lie on your back with bent knees and feet flat on the floor.
  • Cross the foot of the affected hip over the opposite knee and clasp your hands behind your thigh.
  • Pull your thigh toward you until you feel the stretch in your hip and buttocks. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Perform 2 to 3 sets of 4 repetitions each side.

Corticosteroid Injection
If you have hip bursitis, your doctor may recommend an injection of a corticosteroid into the bursa to reduce painful inflammation.

Surgical Treatment

In the rare instances that snapping hip does not respond to conservative treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery. The type of surgery will depend on the cause of the snapping hip.

Hip arthroscopy. During hip arthroscopy, your surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into your hip joint. The camera displays pictures on a television screen, and your surgeon uses these images to guide miniature surgical instruments.
Because the arthroscope and surgical instruments are thin, the surgeon can use very small incisions (cuts), rather than the larger incision needed for standard, open surgery.

Hip arthroscopy is most often used to remove or repair fragments of a torn labrum.

Open Procedure. A traditional open surgical incision (several centimeters long) may be required to address the cause of the snapping hip. An open incision can help your surgeon to better see and gain access to the problem in the hip.
Your orthopaedic surgeon will discuss with you the best procedure to meet your individual health needs.

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