Snapping Hip Syndrome, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, Denver

For several weeks, 16 year-old Libby had been experiencing a snapping sensation over the outside of her hip, especially after running long distances. She noticed an audible pop with some pain that went away with rest. She believed it was more of an annoyance than anything else. Her parents had some concerns for her athletic future so they sought care from the specialists at the Adolescent Hip Preservation Program at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

What is snapping hip syndrome?

Sometimes referred to as ‘dancer’s hip’, it is a condition characterized by a snapping sensation when the hip is flexed and extended. It may even be accompanied by a popping or snapping noise. For some this as an unusual sensation while others have pain or discomfort. This often is improved with rest and reduction in activity. The snapping sensation can be concerning because it feels as if the hip is dislocating.

Is snapping hip syndrome common?

Snapping hip syndrome typically affects teenagers, and usually female patients more often than males. However, any age group can be affected, especially during growth spurts. For children with limb length discrepancies, the snapping hip tends to be noticed on the shorter leg. Athletes are particularly prone because the increased tension of the muscles around the hip can create this snapping sensation.

What causes snapping hip syndrome?

The most common cause is tightness in the iliotibial band (the fibrous tissue that extends from your pelvis to your knee on the outside of your leg) that causes it to snap over the prominent top of the femur bone (greater trochanter). As the tightness changes in the iliotibial band (IT band) as a result of growth or training, it can’t slip smoothly over the trochanteric prominence and instead gets a little hung up on one side and then moves suddenly creating a snapping sensation.

In rare cases, the pain and snapping occurs at the front of the hip rather than at the side. This may represent an entirely different problem associated with a tear in the hip joint or impingement (femoral acetabular impingement or labral tear[RU1] ).

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