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Snapping Hip

Snapping hip disorders include a variety of conditions that can produce a snapping sensation around the hip. Some popping feelings may not be problematic and can be ignored, however those that persist and are associated with pain may require further evaluation. Some common forms of snapping hip include a snapping iliotibial band (external snapping hip) and a snapping iliopsoas tendon (internal snapping hip). Injuries to the labrum, cartilage of the hip and other muscles or tendons can also sometimes produce snapping sensations.

What causes snapping hip?

The cause of snapping syndrome depends on which form of snapping is occurring. External snapping hip involves the iliotibial band, and large muscular/tendinous band on the outer thigh and hip, gliding and catching over the bony portion of the femur bone. Internal snapping hip involves the iliopsoas tendon – a hip flexor tendon – rubbing/snapping over the ball on the front of the hip with rotational movements of the hip.

What are the symptoms of snapping hip?

External snapping hip produces a visible clunk on the outer side of the hip and is sometimes associated with pain when this occurs. Some patients have the impression of ‘dislocating’ their hip when the snapping happens, which is not occurring. Internal snapping hip produces an audible, sometimes loud snapping from the front of the hip with bending and rotational motions, which is also sometimes painful. Other varieties of snapping can produce different symptoms depending on their source.

How is snapping hip diagnosed?

Snapping hip is mostly diagnosed using a combination of hearing the patient’s description of the symptoms and through a thorough examination of the hip. X-rays are often obtained to ensure another source of pain is not present, but rarely do they explain the popping. MRI also can occasionally be helpful to further identify sources of pain around the hip.

How is snapping hip treated?

Many hip injuries, including snapping hip disorders, can be treated using non-surgical measures, including activity modification, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, ice and sometimes physical therapy. In some situations, an injection to the hip region can provide some relief and to also confirm where the pain is coming from. These injections are often guided with imaging – either ultrasound or X-ray. Less commonly, surgery may be required to treat snapping hip disorders, and can often be performed through minimally invasive techniques.

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