If you have ever heard a popping sound or felt a snapping sensation at your hip when you swing your leg around, get up from a chair, or walk, chances are you might have experienced snapping hip syndrome, also known as coxa saltans.
While generally a harmless and painless condition, the sensation can be annoying. In some cases, the condition can progress into a more severe and painful state. In this article, we will explore all that is related to snapping hip syndrome.
What is snapping hip syndrome?
Before understanding what snapping hip syndrome is, it is vital to know the anatomy of the affected area – the hip. The hip is a ball-and-socket joint that is formed where the rounded end of the thigh bone (femur) fits into the acetabulum in the pelvis.
Surrounding the hip are ligaments that hold the joint together. Over the ligaments are tendons that connect the muscles in the pelvis, thighs, and buttocks to the bones, controlling hip movement.
There are several fluid-filled sacs, known as bursae, strategically located around the hip, providing cushioning and helping the muscles to move smoothly over the bones.
Snapping hip syndrome occurs when the tendon or muscle moves over a bony protrusion in the hip. While this movement usually does not cause any discomfort or pain, it can sometimes worsen, leading to the development of bursitis, a painful swelling of the bursae.
Snapping hip syndrome can be categorised into two main types:
1. Internal snapping hip syndrome
Internal snapping hip syndrome can be characterised by the audible clicking or snapping sound on the front of the hip or groin area. It occurs when the iliopsoas tendon (a hip flexor muscle) snaps over a bony prominence of the pelvis. It is most commonly experienced while straightening the hip from a flexed position or during internal rotation. This can be noted during activities such as running, hurdling, jumping, and cycling.
2. External snapping hip syndrome
External snapping hip syndrome can be characterised by the distinct popping or snapping sensation that occurs laterally over the greater trochanter, which is the bony bump on the side of the thigh bone. It happens when the iliotibial band (IT band), a thick band of tissue that runs down the outside of your thigh, rubs against the greater trochanter. The constant rubbing, combined with the movement of the gluteus maximus, causes the popping or snapping sensation.
What causes snapping hip syndrome?
Snapping hip syndrome is mostly associated with tight tendons and muscles around the hip. Generally, individuals who are more physically active or engaged in sports that involve repeated bending at the hip are more prone to experience snapping hip syndrome. Dancers, in particular, are at the highest risk of developing snapping hip syndrome due to the nature of their activities.
In some cases, snapping hip syndrome can be caused by underlying issues, such as poor stability in the pelvic and lower back region, and abnormal foot mechanics, such as overpronation. Here are some examples of the causes:
1. Anatomical variations
When individuals possess unique structures and shapes in their tendons and hip bones, it creates an opportunity for the development of impingement and friction during hip movements. Such unique structures and shapes may involve the positioning of muscles and the tendons, as well as the alignment and size of the bones. For example, a slight deviation in the hip joint alignment can cause increased rubbing between structures during extension and flexion movement.
2. Repetitive and overuse movements
This is particularly true for individuals with hobbies and professions involving vigorous and frequent hip motions, such as dancers and athletes. The repetitive stress on the hip joint leads to strain and inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and tissues encasing it. Hence, it is important to ensure proper warm-up routines before conducting vigorous activities, such as stretching.
3. Muscle imbalances
When the muscles surrounding the hip are imbalanced, either being too tight or too weak, it can disrupt the movement of tissues and tendons in that region, leading to unnecessary popping, catching, or friction. Weak hip muscles may not be able to provide your body adequate stability during hip motions, while overly tight hip muscles can affect the hip’s biomechanics, resulting in uneven tension and forces.
4. Trauma or injury
Previously sustained injuries particularly those involving the hip and the surrounding ligaments, tendons, and muscles, can lead to imbalances in the hip’s biomechanics. Changes in joint alignment, altered muscle mechanics, and the formation of scar tissue due to trauma can all affect the smoothness of the structural movement.
5. Improper techniques
Engaging in activities that involve frequent hip motion, such as weightlifting, cycling, or running, without ensuring proper form can lead to unnecessary stress on the hip joint and surrounding structures. Hence, it is vital to ensure that you prioritise correct forms and techniques before advancing your activities, particularly when lifting weights in the gym.
In most cases, snapping hip syndrome can be alleviated and easily managed through conservative approaches, such as lifestyle adjustments and chiropractic care. Often, this may involve treating underlying causes, such as lower back pain.
Consulting a chiropractor is vital for diagnosing the root cause of your snapping hip syndrome, enabling the development of an effective, tailored treatment plan. Chiropractic care not only helps alleviate and manage snapping hip syndrome but also improves hip movement range and function.
Here at Healing Hands Chiropractic, we offer a wide range of chiropractic care solutions to enhance your musculoskeletal health, from knee pain treatment to frozen shoulder treatment. Additionally, we provide a comprehensive corporate wellness program for organisations seeking to create a healthier working environment for their employees. For more information about our services, please don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule an appointment today!