Snapping hip syndrome is closely related to hip flexor tendonitis, but has a few subtle differences. The main difference and symptom is hearing or feeling a ‘snap’ when the hip flexor is activated (the leg is lifted in some manner). This doesn’t always cause pain, but it usually does, with relief experienced after resting.
Much like hip flexor tendonitis, anyone who is fairly active is at risk of developing snapping hip syndrome. It’s often referred to as ‘dancers hip’ as it is fairly common for dancers to develop this due to the repetitive movements they perform in training. Anytime someone is running or training physically a lot there is a risk of developing the injury. However, unlike other forms of tendonitis, this injury is usually only caused as a direct result of the activity being performed, as opposed to old age.
Snapping Hip Syndrome Diagnosis
In comparison to other hip flexor injuries, snapping hip syndrome is very simple to diagnose. If you feel or hear a snapping feeling while performing a common movement, along with some degree of hip flexor pain, you have developed the syndrome. This snapping sound is caused by the hip flexor tendon movement when the muscles are transitioned from contracting (lifting knee up) to relaxing (knee falling down). It is very important to catch this as soon as possible, otherwise it can be a chronic hip flexor injury plaguing you for years.
Two Main Types of Snapping Hip Syndrome
Lateral Extra Articular
This is the most common type of the syndrome which occurs when either the IT band or Gluteus Medius tendon slides back and forth across a part of the pelvis called the greater trochanter.
Medial Extra Articular
The other way snapping hip syndrome can occur, is if the Illiopsoas tendon gets caught on the front of the hip, most commonly on the anterior inferior iliac spine. If you have read about hip flexor tendonitis, you will notice that this is the same tendon that is usually inflamed, which is why these two injuries often have overlapping issues.
Treating snapping hip syndrome is a little tougher than diagnosing it. There are many reasons that the tendon may not be functioning properly: inflammation, damage, muscular imbalances, postural issues, and more. If you are not sure what caused your injury I would urge you to see a doctor, they can perform tests and scans to isolate the issue which will make treatment easier.
To correct any strengthening imbalances you need to test the relative strength of all opposing muscle groups, most importantly in this case are your hip flexors/Gluteus Maximus and quad/hamstring combinations. If there is an alarming strength difference in one of the movements, look to correct it through strengthening exercises.
If the injury only ‘activates’ when you train for an extended period, most likely you have an inflamed tendon. This should be treated similarly to hip flexor tendonitis with the PRICE recovery procedure and rest. If you absolutely must train try taking a low dose anti-inflammatory medication beforehand.
If you are an extremely serious athlete there is also the option to get an injection if you have an inflamed bursa (the fluid sac that tendons rest on). The most common injection is corticosteroids which are anti-inflammatory that last for weeks and depending on the dosage months. Unfortunately this also comes with many undesirable side effects.
Once the issue has healed, make sure you strengthen the affected areas slowly before resuming full activity. This will prevent the issue from becoming a chronic injury that affects you for a long time.