Snapping Hip Syndrome Causes and Treatments

Snapping hip syndrome is a condition that is characterized by a snapping sensation, and often an audible 'popping' noise, when the hip is flexed and extended. There are several causes for snapping hip syndrome, most commonly due to tendons catching on a bony prominence and "snapping" when the hip is moved.

A woman being stretched on a table
Jeannot Olivet / Getty Images

Snapping Hip Syndrome Symptoms

Many people with snapping hip syndrome feel as though the ball of their ball-and-socket hip joint is coming out of position, a so-called hip subluxation. This is very rarely associated with snapping hip syndrome and usually caused by severe traumatic injuries.

Snapping hip syndrome is not really a diagnosis, but rather a symptom. The symptom of the snapping sensation is caused by an underlying condition. In order to ensure proper treatment, that diagnosis must first be identified.


These are the most common underlying problems:

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

The iliotibial (IT) band is a thick, wide tendon over the outside of the hip joint. The most common cause of snapping hip syndrome is when the iliotibial band snaps over the greater trochanter (the bony prominence over the outside of the hip joint). This can lead to hip bursitis from the irritation of the bursa in this region.

Iliopsoas Tendon Snap

The iliopsoas tendon is the primary hip flexor muscle, and the tendon of this muscle passes just in front of the hip joint. The iliopsoas tendon can catch on a bony prominence of the pelvis and cause a snap when the hip is flexed.

Usually, when the iliopsoas tendon is the cause of snapping hip syndrome, the person has no problems but may find the snapping annoying.

Hip Labral Tear

The least common cause of snapping hip syndrome is a tear of the cartilage within the hip joint. If there is a loose flap of cartilage catching within the joint, this may cause a snapping sensation when the hip is moved.

This cause of snapping hip syndrome typically causes a snapping sensation, but rarely an audible "pop." It may also cause an unsteady feeling, and the person may grab for support when the hip snaps.


An X-ray is usually taken to confirm that there is no bone problem around the hip joint, but these tests can often be normal. If the cause of snapping hip syndrome is thought to be due to cartilage or labral tear within the hip joint, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be obtained to look for evidence of this difficult to diagnose the problem.

Often when MRIs are performed to look for hip joint problems, an injection of contrast (often referred to as dye) is inserted into the joint. Injecting contrast dramatically improves the accuracy of the MRI and can help your healthcare provider "see" much greater detail of the hip joint anatomy.​


Treatment of snapping hip depends most significantly on the cause of the problem. Once the correct cause has been identified, appropriate treatment can begin.

Usually, treatment begins with simple steps, as seldom does a snapping hip require surgical intervention. Often an oral anti-inflammatory medication, or possibly a cortisone injection will help control inflammation if this is contributing to the problem.

Physical therapy may be useful for stretching out the muscles and tendons that cause a snapping hip and may help prevent the problem. Surgery is rarely necessary and reserved for patients who have severe symptoms for long periods of time with an adequate trial of non-operative treatments.

If this is the case, surgery to relax the tendons, or remove the cartilage tear may help with the symptoms of a snapping hip. In some cases, hip arthroscopy can be used for the surgical treatment of these hip problems.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Yen YM, Lewis CL, Kim YJ. Understanding and treating the snapping hip. Sports Med Arthrosc Rev. 2015;23(4):194-9. doi:10.1097/JSA.0000000000000095

  2. Hwang DS, Hwang JM, Kim PS, et al. Arthroscopic treatment of symptomatic internal snapping hip with combined pathologies. Clin Orthop Surg. 2015;7(2):158-63. doi:10.4055/cios.2015.7.2.158

Additional Reading
  • Allen WC and Cope R. Coxa saltans: The snapping hip revisited. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 1995;3:303-308.

By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.