Q: I have heard that if you have a click in your hip, you might have "snapping hip." Is this a real condition? What is "snapping hip"?
A: As funny as it sounds, snapping hip is no laughing matter if you have the constant clicking and/or pain that goes with this problem. It is not as common of an injury as shin splints or Achilles tendonitis, but it can be very annoying. It is more often found in individuals who participate in a demanding activity for the hip such as ballet or track and field events. But, it can also occur with more common activities such as walking or jogging, especially if you increase your volume. The constant, repetitive movement of the hip in a training situation is believed to put you at risk for a snapping hip.
What causes the snap?
THERE are two main structures that cause the majority of snapping hip cases. The first is the iliotibial band (IT band). This tissue runs along the outside of your thigh. It is common for runners to get IT band pain, especially if you like running up and down hills. The clicking with snapping hip involving the IT band usually starts gradually, as the snapping or clicking is felt along the side of the hip (the side of your upper thigh). The click/snap is from the IT band moving over the outside of your hip bone as your thigh goes from being bent to straight.
If the pain and snapping is over the front of your hip, then the hip flexor muscle, iliopsoas, may be the source of the snapping hip. In an activity such as ballet, it is the movement of the hip forward and to the side that can cause the iliospoas tendon to slide, resulting in a snapping sensation. If a sac of fluid swells over the tendon, you will have a bursitis and this can cause pain and snapping, too. A more painful and serious cause of snapping in the hip involves a cartilage tear in the hip joint. This cause is may be preceded by an injury and not just repetition of an activity.
Silencing the snap
SO, if snapping hip is your problem, how do you get rid of it? First of all, make sure you actually have the right diagnosis. The physician examination should focus on leg-length assessment, hip movements and strength tests for the hip
Investigations such as X-rays and MRI scans are not routinely done for this problem if snapping hip is the diagnosis. Snapping hip does not produce an abnormality on an X-ray or an MRI.
If you do have a history of trauma or limited hip range of motion, then further tests might be recommended.
If you have no pain with your snapping hip and you are not uncomfortable with the problem, you can do a series of stretches and strengthening exercises for the hip and pelvis to relieve the problem. A physiotherapist or athletic therapist can construct a home rehab program for you. If you have pain, the exercises are important, but you will also need to reduce stressful activities with the hip and consider an anti-inflammatory medication treatment for a speedy recovery.
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