Synergy Health Partners

Snapping Hip Syndrome


Snapping hip syndrome, also known as coxa saltans or dancer’s hip, is characterized by a snapping sensation or sound in the hip during movement. This condition is generally benign but can be annoying or painful. Snapping hip syndrome can affect athletes, dancers, and individuals who engage in repetitive hip movements.

Types of Snapping Hip Syndrome

There are three main types of snapping hip syndrome, categorized by the location of the snapping:

  1. External Snapping Hip: The most common type, caused by the iliotibial band (IT band) or gluteus maximus tendon snapping over the greater trochanter of the femur.
  2. Internal Snapping Hip: Caused by the iliopsoas tendon snapping over structures such as the iliopectineal eminence or the femoral head.
  3. Intra-Articular Snapping Hip: Caused by intra-articular lesions, such as loose bodies, labral tears, or cartilage damage within the hip joint.


The specific causes depend on the type of snapping hip syndrome:

  • External Snapping Hip: Often due to tightness in the IT band or gluteus maximus, overuse, or muscle imbalances.
  • Internal Snapping Hip: Usually related to tight or inflamed iliopsoas tendon, repetitive hip flexion, or anatomical variations.
  • Intra-Articular Snapping Hip: Resulting from structural problems within the hip joint, such as labral tears, loose bodies, or cartilage damage.


Symptoms of snapping hip syndrome include:

  • Snapping Sensation: A snapping or popping sound or sensation in the hip during movement, especially when walking, running, or rising from a seated position.
  • Pain or Discomfort: Pain may or may not be present; if present, it is usually felt in the front, side, or back of the hip.
  • Swelling: Mild swelling may occur in the affected area.
  • Weakness: Weakness or instability in the hip, particularly with prolonged activity.


Diagnosis of snapping hip syndrome involves a thorough evaluation, including:

  • Medical History and Physical Examination: Assessment of symptoms, activity level, and physical examination to identify the type and location of the snapping.
  • Imaging Studies: X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound may be used to rule out other conditions and evaluate the structures of the hip.


Treatment for snapping hip syndrome varies depending on the severity and underlying cause, and can include:

  • Non-Surgical Treatment:

    • Rest and Activity Modification: Reducing or modifying activities that trigger symptoms to allow healing.
    • Physical Therapy: Exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the hip, improve flexibility, and correct muscle imbalances. Specific stretches and strengthening exercises may target the IT band, iliopsoas, and hip abductors.
    • Medications: NSAIDs to reduce pain and inflammation.
    • Ice Therapy: Applying ice packs to the affected area to reduce swelling and discomfort.
    • Corticosteroid Injections: Injections to reduce inflammation and pain in cases of persistent symptoms.
  • Surgical Treatment: Surgery is rarely needed but may be considered for severe cases or when conservative treatments fail. Surgical options include:

    • Tendon Release: Releasing the tight tendon causing the snapping.
    • Arthroscopic Surgery: To address intra-articular issues such as labral tears or loose bodies.


Rehabilitation focuses on:

  • Stretching Exercises: Regular stretching of the IT band, iliopsoas, and other tight muscles.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Strengthening the hip abductors, glutes, and core muscles to improve stability and function.
  • Gradual Return to Activity: Slowly reintroducing activities while monitoring for symptoms.


The prognosis for snapping hip syndrome is generally good, especially with early and appropriate treatment. Most individuals can achieve significant symptom relief and return to their normal activities with non-surgical treatments and rehabilitation.


Preventing snapping hip syndrome involves:

  • Regular Stretching: Maintaining flexibility in the hip muscles and tendons.
  • Strength Training: Strengthening the muscles around the hip to improve stability and prevent imbalances.
  • Proper Technique: Using proper techniques in sports and physical activities to reduce the risk of hip injuries.
  • Gradual Progression: Gradually increasing activity levels to avoid overuse injuries.


Snapping hip syndrome is a common and usually benign condition that can cause a snapping sensation or sound in the hip. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, including rest, physical therapy, and activity modification, are essential for managing symptoms and preventing recurrence. If you experience persistent hip snapping or pain, consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and personalized treatment plan. With proper care, most individuals can achieve a good outcome and return to their normal activities without discomfort.