What is snapping hip syndrome?
Snapping hip syndrome is a condition that is characterized by a snapping sensation, and often an audible 'popping' noise, when the hip is flexed and extended. There are several causes for snapping hip syndrome, most commonly due to tendons catching on bony prominences and "snapping" when the hip is moved.
What causes snapping hip syndrome?
There are three primary causes for snapping hip syndrome:
- Iliotibial Band Snap
The iliotibial band is a thick, wide tendon over the outside of the hip joint. The most common cause of snapping hip syndrome is when the Iliotibial band (or "IT band") snaps over the greater trochanter (the bony prominence over the outside of the hip joint). If this is the cause of snapping hip syndrome, patients may develop trochanteric bursitis from the irritation of the bursa in this region.
- Iliopsoas Tendon Snap
The iliopsoas tendon is the primary hip flexor muscle, and the tendon of this muscle passes just in front of the hip joint. The iliopsoas tendon can catch on a bony prominence of the pelvis and cause a snap when the hip is flexed. Usually when the iliopsoas tendon is the cause of snapping hip syndrome, patients have no problems, but may find the snapping annoying.
- Hip Labral Tear
The least common cause of snapping hip syndrome is a tear of the cartilage within the hip joint. If there is a loose flap of cartilage catching within the joint, this may cause a snapping sensation when the hip is moved. This cause of snapping hip syndrome typically causes a snapping sensation, but rarely an audible "pop." This cause of snapping hip syndrome may also cause an unsteady feeling, and patients may grab for support when the hip snaps.
Are any tests necessary to diagnose snapping hip syndrome?
An X-Ray is usually taken to confirm that there is no bony problem around the hip joint, but X-Rays are almost always normal with snapping hip syndrome. If the cause of snapping hip syndrome is thought to be due to a tear of the cartilage within the hip joint, an MRI may be obtained to look for evidence of this difficult to diagnose problem.
Is any treatment needed for snapping hip syndrome?
Usually, simple reassurance that nothing serious is wrong is sufficient. A sort course of anti-inflammatory medications, or possibly a cortisone injection will help control inflammation if this is contributing to the problem. Physical therapy may be useful for stretching out the muscles and tendons that cause a snapping hip and may help prevent the problem.
Surgery is rarely necessary, and reserved for patients who have severe symptoms for long periods of time with adequate trial of non-operative treatments. If this is the case, surgery to relax the tendons, or remove the cartilage tear may help with the symptoms of a snapping hip.