Patient Education

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Snapping Hip

Snapping hip syndrome, also known as coxa saltans, is a condition characterized by a snapping or popping sensation in the hip during movement. This can occur due to various causes, often involving the tendons or muscles around the hip.

Common Symptoms

  • Snapping or Popping Sensation: Felt or heard during hip movement, such as walking, getting up from a chair, or swinging the leg.
  • Pain: Usually mild but can become more severe with prolonged activity or irritation.
  • Swelling: In some cases, there might be swelling or a feeling of tightness in the hip.
  • Weakness: A sensation of weakness in the hip, which may affect mobility.

Cause & Anatomy

External Snapping Hip:

  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome: The iliotibial band (ITB) snaps over the greater trochanter of the femur.
  • Gluteus Maximus: Tendons from this muscle may snap over the greater trochanter.

Internal Snapping Hip:

  • Iliopsoas Tendon: The iliopsoas tendon snaps over the iliopectineal eminence or the femoral head.
  • Rectus Femoris Tendon: Snapping over the hip joint.

Intra-articular Snapping Hip:

  • Loose Bodies: Cartilage fragments or loose bodies within the joint.
  • Labral Tears: Tears in the cartilage surrounding the hip socket.


  • Assessment of symptoms and physical tests to replicate the snapping sensation.
  • X-rays: To rule out bony abnormalities.
  • MRI: To assess soft tissue structures and identify tears or inflammation.
  • Ultrasound: Can help visualize the snapping in real-time during movement.


  • Proper Warm-up: Ensuring adequate warm-up before physical activities.
  • Stretching: Regular stretching of the hip flexors, IT band, and surrounding muscles.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Building strength in the hip muscles to provide better support.
  • Avoiding Overuse: Gradually increasing activity levels to avoid overuse injuries.

Non-Surgical Treatment

  • Rest: Avoid activities that trigger the snapping sensation.
  • Ice and Heat Therapy: To reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): For pain relief and inflammation reduction.

Physical Therapy:

  • Stretching Exercises: Focused on the hip flexors, IT band, and gluteal muscles.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Targeting the core and hip muscles.
  • Manual Therapy: Techniques to improve hip joint mobility.

Surgical Treatments

Surgery is considered if conservative treatments fail to relieve symptoms or if there are structural abnormalities that need correction.

  • Iliopsoas Tendon Release: Lengthening or releasing the tendon to prevent snapping.
  • IT Band Release: Lengthening or releasing the IT band to reduce friction.
  • Arthroscopy: To remove loose bodies or repair labral tears within the hip joint.

Rehabilitation Post-Surgical Care

  • Rest and Ice: To manage pain and swelling after surgery.
  • Gradual Return to Activity: Slowly increasing activity levels as healing progresses.
  • Physical Therapy: Continues to focus on stretching, strengthening, and improving hip mobility.


Is snapping hip syndrome dangerous?
It is usually not dangerous but can cause discomfort and affect mobility. Severe cases may require medical intervention.

Can snapping hip syndrome go away on its own?
Mild cases may resolve with rest and activity modification. Persistent or severe cases often need targeted treatment.

What activities should I avoid if I have snapping hip syndrome?
Avoid activities that trigger the snapping sensation, such as repetitive hip flexion, heavy lifting, and prolonged standing or walking.

Can I continue to exercise with snapping hip syndrome?
Yes, but focus on low-impact activities and exercises that do not exacerbate symptoms. Consult a physical therapist for a tailored exercise plan.

How long does recovery take after surgery for snapping hip syndrome?
Recovery can take several weeks to a few months, depending on the specific surgery and individual healing rates. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in recovery.

Are there any long-term complications of snapping hip syndrome?
If left untreated, snapping hip syndrome can lead to chronic pain and limited mobility. Proper treatment usually results in a good outcome.

Can snapping hip syndrome affect both hips?
Yes, it can occur in one or both hips, although it is more commonly unilateral.

What is the difference between internal and external snapping hip syndrome?
Internal snapping hip involves tendons inside the hip joint, such as the iliopsoas tendon. External snapping hip involves tendons or muscles outside the joint, such as the IT band snapping over the greater trochanter.

Is imaging always necessary for diagnosing snapping hip syndrome?
Not always. A thorough physical examination is often sufficient. Imaging is used if there is suspicion of structural abnormalities or other underlying conditions.

Can children and adolescents get snapping hip syndrome?
Yes, it can occur in individuals of any age, though it is more common in athletes and those undergoing growth spurts.

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