Have you ever experienced a popping, snapping, or clicking sensation in the hip with walking or certain hip movements? There is usually very little pain or discomfort associated with it initially;it’s more of an annoyance than anything else. But if left untreated, the condition could become painful and limit mobility. So, let’s consider why your hip tends to “pop” when you walk.
You may have what is known as a snapping hip or dancer’s hip. It is mostly seen in athletes or dancers in their teens or 20s. This condition is caused by the snapping of muscle tendons over bone structures around the hip. It may also be seen in patients with one leg longer that is than the other. There are 3 different types of snapping hip based on the structures that are involved.
The most common type of snapping hip involves the psoas muscle tendon which attaches to the thigh bone. The psoas muscle allows you to flex your hip. Too much sitting causes the tendon to get tight, forcing it to rub against a bony prominence (iliopectineal eminence) in the front upper aspect of the pubic bone, leading to the popping sensation with certain hip movements.
Another type of snapping hip involves the IT band which runs along the outside of the hip. A tight IT band may rub against the bony protuberance on the side of the femur (thighbone), causing the popping sensation.
The final cause of snapping hip involves the tearing of the hip labrum, which is a rim of cartilage around the hip socket. This may occur due to injury or trauma. A clicking or popping sensation is felt as the end of the femur moves over the torn labrum when you walk.
For the most common types of snapping hip, physical therapy stretching exercises for the psoas muscle and IT band should be able to reduce the popping sensation. Hip arthroscopy is usually the best treatment for a torn labrum, enabling return to sports or dance at the highest level.
Dr. Ajay C. Lall is a dual fellowship trained orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and hip arthroscopy. He is an avid clinical researcher with numerous presentations and publications at international academic meetings and within top peer-reviewed journals. The doctors at the American Hip Institute® have been global leaders in Hip Arthroscopy and Robotic Surgery for over a decade. While some would call this excellence, we simply call it the American Hip Institute standard.