Snapping hip is a condition in which the tendon of a hip muscle is felt going over bony structure. It is usually a painless condition caused by tight muscles around the hip. There are two common muscles involved.
The first and most common is the tensor fascia latae that connects to a band of connective tissue (the iliotibial band). This band passes over the broad, flat portion of the thighbone known as the greater trochanter.
When the hip is straight this band of tissue is situated behind the trochanter and when the hip bends it moves over the trochanter to be positioned in front of it. The band is always tight and because the trochanter sticks out the movement of the band across the trochanter causes a snapping sound on the outside of the hip.
The second muscle that could cause a snapping hip is the iliopsoas muscle. The tendon of this muscle runs from the inside of the thighbone up through the pelvis. When the hip bends the tendon shifts across the head of the thighbone and when you straighten the hip, the tendon moves back to the inside of the thighbone. This motion of the tendon back-and-forth motion across the thigh bone creates a snapping noise.
It should also be noted that a tear in the cartilage of the hip or any bony debris in the hip can also cause snapping. However in most cases this would be painful and disabling and at times cause locking or catching of the hip.
There is a feeling or hearing of snapping in the hip on walking, getting up from sitting or swinging the hip. The condition is usually painless and can occur all the time or just occasionally.
Diagnosis and treatment
Your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose and treat this condition. Treatment of this condition would involve soft tissue techniques to release excessively tight tissues, exercises to strengthen muscles to improve pelvic stability and stretching of the involved tissues. Your physiotherapist would also assess and treat/correct any predisposing factors (eg. poor technique for sport, abnormal lower limb biomechanics).