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.
- 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!