Snapping Hip Syndrome

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Dr Poh Seng Yew

MBBS

MRCSEd

MMED (Ortho)

FRCSEd

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What is Snapping Hip?

Snapping hip syndrome, also known as dancer’s hip, is a condition characterised by a snapping sound or sensation in the hip during certain movements such as walking, running, swinging the leg, or transitioning from a seated position. It primarily arises from the interaction of inflamed muscle tendons with the hip socket bone (acetabulum) or the proximal thigh bone (femur). The tension in the muscle, when released, results in the snapping sensation.

Snapping hip syndrome is not usually a cause for alarm and often remains painless. In certain situations it can escalate to pain and inflammation, potentially impacting overall performance and activity levels.

Causes of Snapping Hip

The causes of snapping hip syndrome can be traced to several factors:

  • Tightness in the Muscles and Tendons
    The predominant cause is the tightness in the muscles and tendons around the hip. This condition is common in athletes and dancers due to activities requiring repetitive hip bending.
  • Growth Spurts in Young Adults
    Young adults are at a higher risk, as muscle structures in the hip tend to tighten during adolescent growth spurts.
  • Labral Tear
    A labral tear can cause snapping hip syndrome, along with escalated pain, limited activity, and an increased risk of hip arthritis if not addressed in time.

Symptoms and Signs

The primary symptom is an audible snapping or clicking sound, or a feeling of popping in the hip during movement. Initially, this symptom often occurs without associated pain. With time, the snapping may lead to a dull ache or pain in the hip, particularly during or after movement.

Other symptoms that accompany this can include:


  • Inflammation: Patients may experience localised inflammation in the affected hip area.
  • Swelling: Swelling around the hip joint is another common symptom, often accompanying inflammation.
  • Feeling of Hip Dislocation: Some individuals feel a sensation that their hip is coming out of place.
  • Leg Muscle Weakness: The leg muscles can feel weak, especially when attempting to lift the leg sideways or forwards.
  • Difficulty in Movement: Affected individuals may find it challenging to carry out simple activities such as walking or getting up from a chair due to discomfort or weakness in the hip area.

Diagnosis

The process of diagnosing snapping hip syndrome involves several steps:

  • Medical History and Symptom Evaluation: The hip specialist begins by understanding the patient’s medical history and evaluating their symptoms.
  • Physical Examination: A thorough physical examination focused on the hip area is conducted. The hip specialist may assess how the snapping occurs during various hip movements and whether it is accompanied by pain.
  • Imaging Tests: Although snapping hip syndrome itself may not be evident on imaging tests, X-rays or an MRI scan can be employed to help rule out other hip disorders such as labral tears, loose bodies in the hip, cartilage damage, hip arthritis, or inflammation or tumours in the hip joint lining.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Several non-surgical treatment options can be used to manage snapping hip syndrome. These aim to alleviate symptoms and improve hip function without the need for surgical intervention.

Activity Modification and Rest

Initially, hip specialists may suggest reducing the level of physical activity and resting the affected hip to allow healing of the muscles and tendons. This is often the first line of treatment for less severe cases.

Pain Relief and Anti-inflammatory Medication

Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to alleviate discomfort and reduce inflammation.

Physical Therapy

The hip specialist may suggest engaging in physical therapy to stretch the tightened muscles and improve the range of motion in the hip. This includes specific exercises to target the affected areas.

Steroid Injections

In cases where the snapping is persistent and associated with pain, steroid injections may be administered to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.

Surgical Treatment Options

When non-surgical treatments are not effective in managing snapping hip syndrome, surgical interventions may be considered.

Hip Arthroscopy

This keyhole procedure is primarily used to address issues within the hip joint. During hip arthroscopy, a small camera (arthroscope) is inserted into the hip joint to guide the hip surgeon in repairing a labral tear or removing loose bodies within the joint. The minimally invasive nature of this procedure involves smaller incisions, which greatly reduces recovery time compared to traditional surgical methods.

Endoscopy for Muscle and Tendon Release

In cases where tight muscles are the primary cause of the snapping hip, endoscopy may be performed. This procedure involves the use of an endoscope to release tight muscles and remove inflamed tissue surrounding the hip joint. Like arthroscopy, endoscopy is minimally invasive and aims to alleviate the tension causing the snapping sensation.

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Prevention Strategies

While it may not be possible to prevent snapping hip syndrome entirely, several strategies can reduce the risk of developing the condition.

  • Preparing the Muscles and Tendons Before Activities - Engaging in appropriate warm-up exercises before any intense physical activity can help prepare the muscles and tendons around the hip for movement.
  • Avoid Overstressing the Hip by Gradually Increasing Intensity - Increase exercise intensity gradually to avoid overstressing the hip joint.
  • Undergo Physical Conditioning of the Hip - Maintaining good physical conditioning through a strength and flexibility programme to support hip health and function.
  • Reduce Stress on the Hip by Maintaining a Healthy Weight - Keeping a healthy weight reduces stress on the hip joint.
  • Modification of Strenuous Activities - Avoiding or modifying activities that put excessive strain on the hip joint can help prevent the condition.
  • Minimise Stress by Using Proper Equipment and Attire - Using the right equipment and wearing appropriate attire during high-impact activities can help minimise hip joint stress.
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Dr Poh Seng Yew

MBBS

MRCSEd

MMED (Ortho)

FRCSEd

With over 18 years of experience, Dr Poh Seng Yew is an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in hip, knee, shoulder and elbow surgery, sports medicine, and trauma surgery.

  • Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), National University of Singapore
  • Member, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (MRCSEd)
  • Master of Medicine (Orthopaedic Surgery), National University of Singapore
  • Fellow, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, FRCSEd (Orthopaedic Surgery)
  • Clinical Hip and Sports Medicine Fellow, Orthopädische Chirurgie München (OCM), Germany

 

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Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
38 Irrawaddy Road, #08-62/63
Singapore 329563
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    Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
    38 Irrawaddy Road, #08-62/63
    Singapore 329563

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    Can Snapping Hip Lead to More Serious Conditions?

    While snapping hip is generally not a severe condition, it can occasionally signal underlying issues such as a labral tear or hip impingement. These conditions, if left untreated, may lead to complications like osteoarthritis, chronic pain, or reduced mobility. Consult with our hip specialist if you experience persistent pain or discomfort, especially when accompanied by a snapping sound​​.

    How Long Can Snapping Hip Last?

    The duration of snapping hip syndrome varies depending on the underlying cause and the effectiveness of treatment. In some individuals, the condition may resolve with conservative treatments such as rest, physical therapy, or medication. Persistent cases might require a more extended period of treatment or even surgical intervention for resolution. Reach out to us for personalised care and tailored management techniques, for prompt treatment and effective recovery.

    What Exercises Can Help Relieve Snapping Hip?

    Specific exercises can help alleviate symptoms of snapping hip syndrome. These include hip flexor stretches, iliotibial band stretches, strengthening exercises for hip abductors and adductors, and core stability workouts. Perform these exercises under the guidance of a hip specialist to ensure they are done correctly and effectively.

    Can You Walk with Snapping Hip Syndrome?

    Walking with snapping hip syndrome is possible, although some individuals may experience discomfort or pain. Modifying activities and using pain relief strategies can help manage symptoms during walking. If walking becomes increasingly painful, consult our hip specialist for an appropriate treatment plan.

    Is Surgery for Snapping Hip Painful?

    Surgical interventions for snapping hip, such as hip arthroscopy or endoscopy, are typically performed using minimally invasive techniques, which tend to result in less postoperative pain compared to traditional open surgeries. Pain management and rehabilitation post-surgery can also ensure the patient’s comfort and recovery​​.