“Snapping” or “Clicking” Hip – What is it?

“Snapping” or “clicking” hip is a condition often seen in a physiotherapy clinic.  “Snapping” hip is common in dancers, soccer players and any exercise that involves repeated movements of the hip.  “Snapping” hip refers to the snapping sensation experienced during hip movement, usually bending and straightening.  The snapping sensation may be accompanied by an audible noise and is usually painless.  “Snapping” hip can be caused by a couple of structures.  A ‘side’ snap is usually created by a small muscle around the hip called the tensor fascia latae.  When this muscle is tight, it ‘flicks’ over a prominence on your femur bone called the greater trochanter when the hip is moved.  If this occurs repeatedly, it may irritate a fluid-filled sack (called a bursa) near the greater trochanter and bursitis (inflammation of the bursa) may develop.  A ‘front’ snap is usually caused by a deep muscle at the front of the hip called the iliopsoas, which ‘flicks’ across a bony prominence on the pelvis. Both of these snapping sensations are caused by tightness in that muscle.  The least common cause of the ‘snapping’ sensation is injury to the cartilage deep in the hip joint which has caused a loose flap of cartilage to ‘catch’ when the hip is moved in certain positions.  Your physiotherapist will perform an assessment and determine the cause of your “snapping” hip.  Physiotherapy is useful for correcting this tightness with soft tissue massage as well as providing stretches for these muscles.  Your physiotherapist can also assess to see if there any underlying weaknesses in muscles around the hip and pelvis that also contributed to the tightness building up.  If weaknesses are found, your physio can show you some strengthening exercises to prevent snapping hip from recurring.

By Jessica Norton

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