If you experience a snapping or clicking sensation when you flex or extend your hip (by bringing your knee towards your waist or by straightening the hip joint), you may have snapping hip syndrome, also known as clicking hip. This condition is harmless unless it is accompanied by pain, which can persist for months or even years if untreated.
Snapping hip syndrome is most common among athletes whose sports require repetitive movements, such as runners, soccer players and equestrians. The more common type of snapping hip syndrome, known as extra-articular snapping hip, occurs when the connective tissue that runs down the outer side of the leg, from the hip to the knee, becomes thickened. This enables the band to rub against and catch on nearby bones or on the fluid-filled sac on the outside of the hip bone, known as a bursa. This rubbing can cause the pain that sometimes accompanies snapping hip syndrome.
The other, less-common type of snapping hip syndrome is known as intra-articular snapping hip syndrome. This occurs when the tendon stretching from the inner thigh to the pelvis becomes inflamed. In this case, the clicking sensation is caused by the tendon snapping over the head of the hip bone.
If your snapping hip is not painful, there’s no need to consult a sports medicine specialist. If, however, your hip is bothering you, simple at-home measures may heal your hip. These include cutting back on your training, applying ice to the hip, and modifying the way you exercise to minimize repetitive hip movements. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can also reduce discomfort.
If the pain persists, consult a professional. He or she can diagnose the condition and put you on the road to recovery. Your sports medicine specialist will ask you to move your leg to recreate the snapping sensation, and he or she might even be able to feel the tendon snap as you move. He or she might also order X-rays to rule out other causes of the clicking such as bone problems.
Once you have recovered from snapping hip syndrome, make sure you keep the muscles of your hip strong and flexible. Also increase your mileage gradually so you don’t overtax your hip before it’s in training condition.