When you walk, get up from a chair, or swing your leg around, you may feel or hear
a "snapping" sensation in your hip Snapping hip is usually painless and harmless,
although the sensation can be annoying. Young athletes and dancers frequently experience
The snapping sensation results from the movement of a muscle or tendon (the tough,
fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone) over a bony structure. In the hip,
the most common site is at the outer side where a band of connective tissue (the
iliotibial band) passes over the broad, flat portion of the thighbone known as the
When the hip is straight, the band is behind the trochanter. When the hip bends,
the band moves over the trochanter so that it is in front of it. The band is always
tight, like a stretched rubber band. Because the trochanter juts out slightly, the
movement of the band across it creates the snap you hear. Eventually, this could
lead to hip bursitis. Bursitis is thickening and inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled
sac that allows the muscle to move smoothly over bone.
Another tendon that could cause a snapping hip runs from the inside of the thighbone
up through the pelvis (rectus femoris tendon). As you bend the hip, the tendon shifts
across the head of the thighbone; when you straighten the hip, the tendon moves
back to the side of the thighbone. This back-and-forth motion across the head of
the thighbone causes the snapping.
A tear in the cartilage or debris in the hip joint can also cause a snapping or
clicking sensation. This type of snapping hip usually causes pain and may be disabling.
A loose piece of cartilage can cause the hip to catch or "lock up."
Most people do not bother seeing a doctor for snapping hip unless they experience
some pain. Your doctor will first determine the exact cause of the snapping. You
may be asked where it hurts, what kinds of activities bring on the snapping, whether
you can demonstrate the snapping, or whether you have experienced any trauma to
the hip area.
You may also be asked to stand and move your hip in various directions to reproduce
the snapping. The doctor may even be able to feel the tendon moving as you bend
or extend your hip.
X-rays of people with snapping hip are typically normal, but they may be requested
along with other tests so that the doctor can rule out any problems with the bones
If your snapping hip is painless, no treatment is needed.
If the snapping hip bothers you, but not to the point of seeing a doctor, try the
following conservative home treatment options:
If you are still experiencing discomfort after trying these conservative methods,
consult your physician for professional treatment.