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.

An overly tight psoas can be heard snapping over bony prominences in the pelvis with internal snapping hip.

An overly tight psoas can be heard snapping over bony prominences in the pelvis with 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.

SOURCES:

  • 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.

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

Amanda Tripp

It was love at first Sun Salutation for Amanda Tripp ... who was introduced to yoga as a teen when her mom brought home a video. Eventually, she sought out living, breathing teachers to help direct and deepen her practice. Her teachers have been inspirational; her yoga practice: transformational. Amanda felt the call to share the healing benefits of practice with others and completed a 250-hour teacher training program at the Yoga Centre of Burlington. Continuing studies led her to the work of Jill Miller and certification as a Yoga Tune Up® teacher. Amanda's classes speak to the body, breath, mind and heart as she guides students toward greater ease of being.

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Genevieve

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.

Kristin Harris

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… Read more »

Sara M

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!

Nancy Bernhard

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!

susan

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!

marie josée packwood

Good info

Amber Bilak

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.

Kammy Fung

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.

Jess Blake

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!

Rita Chow

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!

Ernie

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!

Sue O.

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.

Nadine Maskallis

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.

Steven Custodio

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/

Stephanie

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!

Mona Laflamme

Thanks once again for this intake on hip “snapping sound”.