A blog by runners. For runners.

Snapping hip syndrome: what it is and how to treat it


You are out for a run when all of a sudden, you hear a snap. You might have stepped on a stick — or maybe that sound came from your hip.

Snapping hip syndrome is a common runner’s injury. It occurs when one of your tendons moves over a bony protuberance in your hip, causing a snapping sound.

The muscles that move your hip can snap over the bones in your pelvis or in your hip. Two separate sets of muscles can be affected:

  • The hip flexors can cause this snapping sensation, often felt in the groin.
  • The other is associated with the iliotibial band — or IT band — stretching or snapping over the side of your hip called the greater trochanter.

I often find this condition occurs in runners who increase the amount of hill training or who have added bicycle cross-training. When you climb and descend hills or pedal excessively, your tendons contract and tighten. If they remain tight, a tendon could stretch over the bone and cause snapping hip syndrome.

Snapping hip syndrome is associated with either an audible snapping or a sense of rubbing when you run. However, it doesn’t always present as a snapping sound. You may notice hip pain and inflammation in the area.

Although this isn’t usually a serious condition, it can be painful enough to affect your training and develop into a persistent tendonitis.
It is diagnosed by history and physical exam. X-rays are typically normal.

Initial snapping hip syndrome treatment involves activity modification, ice, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications if tolerated. A cortisone injection and physical therapy can be helpful in recalcitrant cases. In rare cases, an MRI is obtained and arthroscopic or open surgery is performed to correct the affected tendon.

Here are some ways to avoid developing snapping hip syndrome:

  1. Slowly ramp up your training program
  2. Integrate hill training gradually
  3. Give your muscles time to adjust to your training routine, listen to your body
  4. Make sure you include stretching (and lots of it) — particularly of your hip flexors and IT band
  5. Wear supportive shoe
  6. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention
james-nace-final By Dr. James Nace, M.D.James Nace, MD is an orthopedic surgeon-joint replacement and doctor of general orthopedics specializing in hip, knee and shoulder joint preservation and reconstruction. He practices out of the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Maryland. Throughout his career as a physical therapist and orthopedic surgeon, Nace has gained the most satisfaction from treating runners and all types of athletes for their injuries and helping get them back to training and competing.


Related: Is it ITBS? Treating IT band syndrome