Do your hips snap? They shouldn’t. Allow me to begin by apologizing to every yoga student to whom I’ve ever said “if it makes a snapping sound and it doesn’t hurt, it’s probably okay”. That was early in my teaching career. I know better now and I’d like to officially retract that statement. The fact that your hip is snapping without pain today doesn’t mean you’re not setting yourself up for injury in the future.
It turns out that the cause of ‘Snapping Hip’ (that is actually a technical term) is usually one of three things – and NONE of them are okay:
1) Your IT Band (a long, thick band of connective tissue that runs down your lateral hip and thigh, crossing both your knee and hip joints) is snapping over a bony protrusion. This is also known as external snapping hip.
2) Your psoas tendon (in your front hip crease) is catching on a bony prominence. This is known as internal snapping hip.
In either of the above cases, the snapping sound you hear is the sound of your tendon being plucked by a bony prominence similar to the sound it makes when you pluck a tight elastic band with your finger! That snapping sound is a giant red flag. Your tendons should glide easily and soundlessly over the surrounding bony prominences. The strumming sound occurs because the soft tissues of your hip are experiencing friction. Continued friction leads you down a path to heat, inflammation and conditions that end in “-itis”. An “-itis” (meaning inflammation) is painful and unpleasant – like hip bursitis (which can be created by the IT band snapping) or hip tendonitis (in the case of your snapping psoas tendon). So, you see, allowing your hip snap to continue is really NOT OKAY.
Another possible cause of the hip pain is…
3) You have a labral tear, meaning that there is a loose flap of cartilage catching within your hip joint. You need to see a doctor for this.
If your snapping hip is caused by an overly tight IT band or iliopsoas, it is within your powers to reset the level of tension in these tissues using a combination of massage, stretch and strengthening work so that your hip can once again move safely, silently and smoothly.
Also, until you get it sorted out, stop doing whatever it is that makes your hip snap.
Do you have an internal hip snap? Use your Roll Model® balls to roll out the Tensor Fascia Lata and IT band and try the Bridge lifts to lengthen your psoas.
- Bowman, Katy. Alignment Matters: The First Five Years of Katy Says. Ventura: Propriometrics Press, 2014.
- Cluett, Jonathan, M.D. “Snapping Hip Syndrome: Causes and Treatments for Snapping Hip Syndrome”. about.com. February 3, 2015.
- Snapping Hip Syndrome by Jonathan Cluett, M.D.
This article is part 2 of a 4-part series on interpreting sounds from the joint space. Come back next week to learn about synovial joints that snap!
Enjoyed this article? Read Snap, Crackle and Pop – Part I: A Synovial Joint Primer
Thank your for the explanation of snapping hips. We are often told that as long as it doesn’t hurt, we shouldn’t worry about it, but now I understand the importance of listening more carefully to the signals that our body sends us. The YTU therapy balls, strengthening and lengthening exercices can work miracles! Thank you for the informative article!
Thank you for getting a bit more specific about the different types of sounds the hip joint could make. It would be great to understand how to help the issue in more detail or with a video of examples of the massage, stretch and strengthening work that could help.
Amanda, you have simplified the complexity of this phenomenon on snapping hips for me. I have been working with exercises for the last year on getting my right hip snapping issues addressed. I have hypermobile joints overall, and have noticed that strengthening exercises related to hip flexion has been my greatest ally.
It wasn’t until this very moment when I read your article that I realized my right psoas has always been tight and my right side oblique much weaker than my left. I have recently worked out the strength issue, moving things into more balance between left and right sides by adding more lateral flexion work. Keeping up with hip flexion exercises helps me tremendously. But I need to now refocus into more of the specific relationship between hip flexion and psoas tendon from a functional movement standpoint. The counternutation in my pelvis is also a factor, I think.
Your article linked me to a body part that I hadn’t been even considering as part of the problem-the psoas tendon. Thank you, thank you, thank you for spelling things out so clearly and succinctly! I really wish I would have read this article of yours years ago.
Thank you Amanda, for the explanation on what’s going on when my hips pops, and how to work towards fixing it. It’s a great reminder to loosen up those hip flexors that get overly tight from too much sitting!
I’ve just started having internal snapping hip after working very hard to open my psoas and TFL. Seems like the opening, rather than the previous tightness, has created an instability. Will keep rolling all those attachments!
Thanks for spelling out the 3 snaps and also the YTU solutions to preventing them in the first place: TFL/IT band roll out and bridge lifts!
I’ve had “snapping hip syndrome” for over twenty years, and I would love not to. I believe it is my psoas that is clunking. I will try the IT band/TFL rollout, and bridge lifts, though I do a ton of those.
Glad to know those 3 reasons for the snapped hips. Now I can pay attention to do some changes from my movement and address these issues with my doctor & PT. My hips do snap but my biceps tendon snapped all the time.
I used to have Snapping Hip in almost every single yoga class and have been working over the past several years to strengthen my hip stabilizers as well as work within a smaller range of motion, to avoid the snapping sound, though sometimes it still happens. I am excited to know the 3 main causes of Snapping Hip and I am looking forward to adding in some Yoga Tune Up Therapy Ball Massage for those areas into my self care and hopefully stop my Snapping Hip once and for good!
My left hip snap all the time and sadly I still haven’t been able to locate the cause. I will definitely try rolling and doing bridge lift and see how it goes. If it is not improving anything, I guess it’s time to consult a doctor. Thanks for the post!
Thanks for distinguishing between the two snaps and now I know I am plucking my right posas every time I flex and extend my right hip especially when lying supine. I have been told this is okay but it doesn’t feel right. I am now gonna take your suggestion and bridge and roll! Thanks a ton!
I hadn’t heard before the distinction between internal and external snapping hip. Thank you for educating us! My hip snaps (internally, I think) when my pelvis / SI joint goes wonky. You’re right, it shouldn’t be ignored because the snapping means something is not aligned. I will be more mindful next time someone asks about this.
Thank you, Amanda, for outlining the possible causes of “snapping hip” along with suggestions to help the issue by massaging, stretching and strengthening. I’m glad I cam across your article as a runner friend of mine is experiencing snapping hip and I was able to send him this information.
Hip snapping exactly what I have, I will try rolling the TFL and bridge lift (which I enjoy doing) and see how it goes. I’ve also seen/read that you should stretch the join In your hip, I’ve tried it and while it’s stretch my hip doesn’t snap, maybe this post can help others https://instagram.com/p/BNk–IHAP_F/
Just finished reading part 1 of your series on Interpreting Sounds and am so glad that I read part 2. Will definitely look further into my clunky hip! Thank you for the informative article!
Thanks once again for this intake on hip “snapping sound”.
Hi Amanda, I have a snapping hip on my righty side and have been told by physio’s, chiropractors etc not to worry about it since it was not painful. However, I also have a tight and easily irritated Soas on my right side……..so! Thank you for this very informative article.
I’ve often wondered what that snapping was in trikonasana that can be heard loudly throughout classes. As of late I concluded that it was probably the psoas it’s probably not a good thing. Thanks for confirming my suspicions.
I agree on the snap. I have an issue with my hip snapping. Back in high school, I used to race walk. In order to race walk properly, I would have a snapping hip pain. Back then the doctor was it’s just tightness and would get better over time. It never did, now looking back I went a whole season in pain. Now I wouldn’t but with the Yoga Tune Up maybe that would decrease the pain and discomfort, and that’s a maybe. It depends it may or may not help and race walking may not be for me. I am older now and I do not race walk anymore but I do walk and have no pain and plan to keep it that way. By the way my snapping hip syndrome comes from my IT band.
I am trying to figure out all the cracking or snapping in my body. I definitely have a right psoas and pop when abducting my hips often, or extending. I have this pain in my right side psis/sacral region to my pirformis area. Working to find the root of that, and my posterior pelvis started popping if I lower both legs to the ground after leg lifts. It is a new development in the last couple months after stopping weight training and focusing solely on yoga. I got too much stretch and not enough muscle. My spine has always cracked and I’ve been trying to really figure out why. As well as if I sit for hours doing homework and then stretch, I get one single pop, like a knuckle pop with bass, at my sternum. One single pop. Writing each pop out makes me feel like I’m a mess! Haha. Really, I just have to work on my strength and support again. I hope. I’m working it out.
So many yoga teachers in the past told me that my popping (but largely pain-free) hip was fine. Massage therapists and body workers haven’t solved it either. I’m so happy to have found my way to YTU! Rolling on the therapy balls for the IT band and doing work to help the psoas have improved my hip, but I’m going to continue to investigate. Thank you for this series of articles!
I’m interested in digging deeper here. My wife has a very loud snap (a deep “knock”-like sound, with an echo that can fill an entire room) in her right hip. This sound is instigated while lying on her back with her right hip in flexion, and as she extends the hip, at about 30 degrees to the floor, boom! She claims to have had it her entire life and it doesn’t give her any pain. Many wonderful bodyworkers have explored the phenomena but no one has been able to discover an answer. It is still quite the mystery. I will have to ask Jill about this at some point this week.
My hip had just started popping in certain range of motions in the last few months. I will definitely try rolling the hip flexors and extensors more and see what happens.
Curious about popping of vertebra with spinal rotation – would same rule apply? Even if it doesnt hurt today doesnt mean it wont cause problems in the future
I have quite a few long distance runners attending my classes and this information will assist with prevention and restoration of their hip joints. Thank you!
This series of articles has been so helpful to my understanding of my body’s symphony of sounds. “Snap” has been the most profound. I never considered different pitches in the sounds and how a higher pitch might indicate a structure, like a ligament, getting hung up on a bony promenance. I have snapping. That’s insight on what areas need more rolling and what habitual movement patterns need to be addressed. I’m empowered to be a “joint whisperer.”
So informative! I now learnt and understand the 3 different causes of the snapping sound, it helps me understand what could be happening in my body when I hear these sound in my hips.
This article is very informative and easy to follow. I appreciate her starting out with an apology. Thank you for discerning if it’s an external or internal rotation and how to address the “snap”. Now I know better too!
Thank you for addressing this issue – my left hip constantly snaps and am going to see my physical therapist this week because it’s been going on for so long. Very interesting to understand what is going on in the hip joint and what can be one of the many causes of this snapping sound. This does a great job of laying out the frame work in laymen terms so anyone can understand. I am guilty of once saying “if it doesn’t hurt it should be okay” but after discovering YTU I know better and understand cracking sounds are red flags, the beginning the body whispering to address a situation! I am curious to know if supported bridge work as well as a regular bridge to stretch-out the psoas, making it a more restful and passive stretch?
I must admit I have never been in a situation where I’ve responded: “if it doesn’t hurt, it must be ok.” If I didn’t have an answer to the question, I’ve usually said “You may want to get that checked out / ask an expert.” And I have never heard of snapping hip but I’ll put this info in my back pocket just in case b/c clearly it shouldn’t be ignored. Thank you.
I’ve had a few clients over the years who had that “thunking” hip sound when in hip extension or circumduction. I always thought it was harmless if there was no pain. Then I had a new client last year with two labral tears and she told me that hip clunking can be a symptom, which I had never heard before. That made me much more cautious and now you have given me more to think about and great information but how do you tell if it’s muscle tightness or a labral tear?
Hmm, wow, that’s super helpful. I’ve never heard a hip snap – either my own or anyone else’s; but I’m pretty young in my yoga career so I’m sure it’s bound to happen. Now I know – hip snapping, not so good!
This is very helpful, thanks Amanda! As someone who is hyper-mobile, I’m so grateful for YTU’s emphasis on strengthening along with stretching and releasing. I’m happy to have some more tools and information to help students (and myself) with this issue!
I might have heard the statement that snapping hips aren’t okay but this is the first time that this concept makes sense and is sticking with me for the rest of my teaching career. And of course as I was reading these blogs I was also doing self-tests and unsurprisingly I have internal snapping hip on the side where my psoas is irritated. Do yoga teachers need fixing or what?
Wow, this was really insightful. My hip occasionally pops and it never occurred to me that it could be my IT or psoaz tendon snapping over a bony protrusion. I guess I need to roll out my hip area and IT band band more regularly. Thanks for the great information and the exercises you shared!
If it doesn’t hurt it’s probably ok is so much used in yoga classes it seems! But I also am more an more interested at looking deeper into causes so we can decide if it really is or not ok. Very informative piece, quickly and clearly explains the main causes of hips clicking, will remember them.
I don’t think that the sound my hips make is a snapping sound, but more of a crunching sound when I do a lot of external rotation and circumduction. i can’t figure out if I should continue with these movements because my hips aren’t used to them and it will improve my range of motion, or if I should back away from movements that cause the crunching noise. I will definitely try engage & stretch the muscles of my hip more and see if I see more improvement as I provide more stability.
I too have been told that if it doesn’t hurt don’t worry about it- and always wondered about the logic in that- given that I wasn’t born with a congenital snapping hip. I wonder if my yoga practice has created hyper laxity in the ligaments. Practicing with more awareness of optimal stretch versus how far can I go seems to have helped.
Thank you for your insight. I have always been told various things about snap, crackle and pop at the hip joint. I have my own snapping that occurs. I am now more committed to roll and see if that changes things.
Thank you. This article is right in spot to what’s going on with me right now. I have been experiencing right hip pop up in some routines. Especially with addition, internal rotation. All the YTU ball routines and leg work is helping me tremendously. I am also guilty of saying “if it makes a snapping sound and it doesn’t hurt, it’s probably okay”. I will never be repeating this for sure. thank you again.
For so many years I thought that if I just kept creating more flexibility in the shoulders and hips the popping would stop. I am just learning about self releasing techniques using the yoga therapy balls and know that will make a difference. Thank goodness I found out a few years ago that strengthening was as important and stopped aiming for more and more stretch. I can’t wait to add in the releasing aspects too, I know it will make a huge difference to these joints and the sounds they make.
Thanks for this most informative blog. I have many snapping joints, but they most painful and problematic is my hip. I hope to finds more ways to relieve this stress from my pelvis and Yoga Tune Up is providing them.
even after hip resurfacing surgery as a teen and tons of hip flexor and psoas work I still snap internally at times! going to get my alpha out and roll my TFL now….
I really like this series of posts. I’m exploring various noses in my body in hope to find answers. It seems like a complex issue and getting a little glimps of possibilities makes it easier to organize. I’ll keep on reading.
I LOVE that Amanda began the blog with an apology to yoga students for letting them move with snapping hips. I could have almost stopped reading right there. I’m feeling the need to apologize to my students and haven’t had the courage to do it yet. I want to apologize to them for not dealing with their issues directly except to layer on more compensations with my cueing.
Back to the hip, what can I say except this information is good to know. Another arrow in my quiver.
I appreciate the insight into this. It’s not addressed enough. After about 3 months of a new popping in my hip (psoas I suspect) I’m going to get some PT as part of my self care. As a yoga teacher with many hours logged both in personal practice and teaching thousands of demos – I imagine there has been some kind of imbalance along the way!
Unfortunately I suffer from snapping hip syndrome. After misuse and abuse of my IT band, I gradually began feeling this extreme tightness while I flexed my left hip. The tightness then led to a snapping, that I thought was “normal”. It got to a point where I could not sit without snapping my hip to find comfort in my seat. I began going to physical therapy. My physical therapist told me to rest so I continued to sit which led to continual snapping. Months into treatment, I found Yoga Tune Up. The first time I massaged out my IT Band and my TFL, I felt euphoric. The snapping has dramatically decreased with Yoga Tune Up, weight training, and moderate stretching. The Roll Model worked wonders on my body!
Someone just asked me about IT band issues today so I’m glad I read this! I can’t say that I can relate to the snapping sound because I don’t think I’ve every experienced this in my body, but it’s good to know if a student or client of mine experiences it. Actually, now that I think about it, I do get snapping in my knee…I’ll need to investigate that further.
I always told myself if it doesn’t hurt it’s ok. Oh dear. I must regularly roll my TFL and IT band. I did it Monday, oh my goodness! Ouch! At least I know that will reduce the more I do it.
My snapping hip is always worse when I am dehydrated. I wonder if anyone else has experienced this?
My hip sometimes snaps when I do certain movements, and flexing my hips like in deep squats sometimes feels as if there is something in the way, so I will definitely try to release some tension in my iliopsoas and see what this changes for me, instead of thinking “as long as it doesn’t hurt, it’s okay”, because if and when it starts hurting, it might be too late…
Thanks for reminding me that it’s not ok and that massage, stretch and strengthening can help. Until then don’t seek out the snap!
My internal hip crease snaps with pain when I do adduction of the hip. Just happened in class today and causes sharp pain. For my situation, I now have two possible explanations as to what is going on and two YTU methods to help address the problem. Thanks Amanda!
I am afraid I was also guilty of the “if it doesn’t hurt you’re ok” feedback. This is not only great for teachers to read, but for students(which we all are!) to know so they can chose appropriate ranges of motion and address the underlying causes!
I have had “snapping hip” for the past 12-15 years, and while I would never wish any body complications on my fellow movers, it’s nice to hear that I’m not alone and that there is a YTU answer for it. Even the simple suggestion of performing Bridge Lifts to lengthen the psoas is more than most people with snapping hip would attempt to do to fix it, especially if there is no pain involved. Thank you!
Hips snapping is so not good! I didn’t realize it was the psoas or IT band plucking over a bone. I remember having teachers tell me it was air pockets at one time in a class. I need to further investigate my own hips snapping
Wow! So many great questions! You might be able to feel for yourself, whether or not it is your Psoas tendon (twang in the front of the hip) or IT band (twang in the lateral hip) or you might need the help of your RMT, Physio.
Do not give up hope! I can’t say exactly what the cause of YOUR popping is, knowing almost nothing about you, but the regime you’ve described is all about stretching and releasing, which may be de-stabilizing your joints. You need to balance a stretching practice out with strength and stability work. For more on this, read Jill Miller’s blog “This Joint is Jumping”. Seek out a great physical therapist or a YTU teacher in your area (this site has a search function) and get to work on bringing balance back to your body. If there are deeper issues, be sure to consult a medical practitioner. Best of luck!
So if the bridge lifts, and the pranic bath, make my shoulder pop, I shouldn’t do them? My hips pop, and one ankle occasionally, and one shoulder. This is after nearly 4 years of doing Katy Bowman’s stretches consistently, 1.5 years of myofascial release therapy monthly, and three months of using the YTU balls daily. Nothing really changes, the pain just moves around. I’m 35 years old…I think I am just too broke to be fixed.
Thank you for this! My right hip has been snapping for over a decade. I’ve practiced yoga for 22 years and have been a massage therapist for 6 but have never seen this problem addressed. It was in my YTU training that I first heard someone (Jill!) mention this issue. I have some deep massage work scheduled for my hip area in the near future and will have the therapist check out both the ITB/TFL tendon and the psoas tendon. Do you have any insight into how to differentiate which kind of snap it is? I’m assuming the only way to diagnose a labrum tear is through imaging? I’m also assuming I couldn’t have lived mostly pain-free with a tear for over ten years? So many questions…. Thanks again!
Very informative! I shall start the rolling more consistently. I do have a snap on the left side i am not sure if it comes from option 1 or 2. I will definitely pay attention the next time a Pop comes along. Thank you.
Thanks for doing this series. Is that popping sound when the class moves in or out of triangle pose the IT band one you are talking about? Is there a way to know the difference between the two other than just by feel?
And YES, my knees (especially when going up stairs . . . ) big creeky crackly noise makers. I’ve read that it is called crepitus?
Read on, Terry. I will address the knees.
Here’s to the power of self-care health care! Thanks for sharing your success stories Amy and Melissa 🙂
Very informative. I have seen my doctor for this and he says it is due to the rotation of my pelvis (scoliosis) and my left leg internally rotates more as my right leg externally rotates more. The popping is in the front of my left hip. It has stopped dramatically now that I’ve been rolling on the balls regularly.
Really hoping #3 and/or #4 are about the knee. Mine crack way too much for comfort, and so far all the Yoga Tune-Up & MobilyWOD exercises I can find haven’t helped.
This is me to a T. After almost two years of popping and DAILY excruciating pain, for the last three months I have been doing YTU massage all along the glutes, deep 6, TFL, IT, knee, calf, and foot, core release with a ball over my psoas and lots of bridge in yoga – and guess what, as long as I am vigilant – no popping and no pain.
THANK YOU YTU