Your hips are major ball-and-socket joints separating the upper and lower body. They are essential to your ability to stand, walk, and maintain balance.
Given the heavy responsibilities hips carry, it is not surprising that many injuries can impact their function. One such concern is a medical condition known as snapping hip syndrome.
The hip joint connects the thighbone (femur) with the hip bone (pelvis). Surrounding these structures are muscles and soft tissues connecting the muscles and bones.
Snapping hip occurs when your hip makes a popping sound or feels like it is snapping out of place. Such events result from muscles or soft tissues contacting neighboring pieces of bone. The problem may occur outside your hip, in addition to the joint’s back and frontal areas.
Many researchers think muscle tightness is to blame for snapping hip syndrome by placing strain on surrounding bones and soft tissues. Snapping hip syndrome also results from cartilage damage. Cartilage is the flexible substance protecting the hip joint. When it becomes inflamed or tears, you can experience a snapping sensation.
Snapping hip syndrome often occurs in athletes. Your risk also increases if you take part in specific hip-straining activities such as:
Your probability of injury is also greater if you are involved in any leisure activity or job that requires you to bend repeatedly. Younger people carry a higher risk. Hip muscle tightness is more commonly seen in adolescents, teens, and younger adults.
The condition does not typically cause any notable discomfort. But the snapping, clicking, or popping sounds or sensations you experience when performing routine activities such as standing, sitting, and walking often occur frequently and can be distracting.
Longstanding cases of snapping hip syndrome can eventually lead to bursitis – an inflammation of small fluid-filled structures called bursae. Bursae surround bones, muscles, and soft tissues, providing them with added protection.
As bursitis progresses, you can experience hip pain, stiffness, redness, and swelling. Occasionally, the condition may worsen when you walk, stand, or participate in any type of physical activity.
When Should You Seek Medical Attention?
It is important to reiterate that snapping hip syndrome usually produces no significant discomfort. You might consult your doctor if the associated popping or snapping occurs more frequently.
You are urged to see your doctor immediately should bursitis symptoms or other unpleasant or life-impacting events occur. Without proper treatment, bursitis tends to recur. Discomfort and other bothersome symptoms could result from more serious conditions needing treatment.
Your doctor will likely begin the diagnostic process by closely examining your hip and the upper leg for any irregularities. After completing the visual check, they may ask you several questions, such as:
- When the snapping or popping began.
- Do any movements or activities bring forth or worsen the problem?
- Where you might be feeling discomfort.
- Have you experienced any hip or upper leg injuries before?
Your doctor may ask you to perform movements known to produce popping or snapping sounds. They might order internal imaging tests if they still cannot reach a firm conclusion.
X-rays capture photos of your hip bones. Snapping or popping might result from weak or brittle bones. Your doctor might also order magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) or computerized tomography (CT scans). These imaging tools produce digital scans of internal features like muscles and soft tissues and reveal any abnormalities.
Most cases respond favorably to home therapy. A small percentage may need more aggressive treatment like surgery.
Rest – Treatment usually begins with rest. Prolonged periods of inactivity allow affected soft tissues and muscles time to heal. Healed tendons and muscles are less likely to produce snapping sounds or sensations.
Over-The-Counter Drugs – Minor discomfort and swelling can be relieved using over-the-counter pain-relieving or inflammation-reducing medications readily available inside any supermarket, convenience establishment, or drugstore chain.
Physical Therapy – Moderate cases might need physical therapy – a set of exercises created by trained and licensed healthcare providers known as physical therapists. Before formalizing a specific plan, these medical professionals consider several factors, such as your:
- Level of physical fitness.
- General health.
The underlying cause of the popping, the occurrence’s frequency, its impact on your everyday life, and the presence of other physical issues also play into formulating any physical therapy (PT) program.
Steroid Injections – Corticosteroid injections help combat bursitis. Steroids are known to reduce the inflammation associated with this condition. As a result, symptoms like pain, redness, and swelling often lessen or go away completely.
Uncomplicated cases of snapping hip syndrome should respond to the before-mentioned treatments. Those that do not likely result from more serious physical conditions. Under such circumstances, surgery might be needed to determine and correct the underlying problem. Common surgical procedures include:
- Arthroscopy – Surgeons use a tiny, camera-fitted tool called an arthroscope to examine your hip joint. It captures photos transmitted to computers that doctors view to detect possible abnormalities. Arthroscopes are equipped with small incision-making tools often used to remove bits of damaged tissue. For example, surgeons might remove loose or fouled cartilage surrounding the hip.
- Open Surgery – Severer but undiagnosed issues might need open surgery. Surgeons make an open incision near the hip, examine the hip joint and surrounding tissues, and fix any existing problems.
Most uncomplicated cases do not cause any significant pain or disability and may disappear on their own or with minimal treatment. Instances of snapping hip syndrome brought on by more serious injuries or resulting in bursitis might need a course of medication, physical therapy, and possibly even surgery. In such instances, recovery time frames will vary and depend on several factors.
Prevention is not always possible. You might reduce your risk by following safeguard measures such as:
- Participating In Different Leisure Activities – Participating in sports and other leisure activities that place less pressure on the hips and upper legs can produce positive results. For example, bicyclists might lessen their risk for recurrences by swimming instead.
- Stretching Before Exercising – Stretching helps loosen muscles and soft tissues. Stretching also strengthens the hip, decreasing its chances of becoming injured during a workout.
- Do Not Ignore Symptoms – You should stop all significant physical activities as soon as you notice unusual sounds or even the slightest amount of discomfort. These symptoms should be brought to your doctor’s immediate attention for further examination.
- Gradually Easing into Any Fitness Regimen – You should never aggressively enter any new fitness program. They can significantly increase your chances of injury. Gradually increase your participation in any sport or workout regimen.
If you have any symptoms of snapping hip syndrome, call for an appointment with Dr. Howard or Dr. Arnold to check your hip.