Snapping Hip Syndrome

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Dr Kau Chung Yuan (许医生)


MRCS (Ireland)

MMed (Ortho)

FRCSEd (Ortho)


What is Snapping Hip Syndrome?

Snapping Hip Syndrome, medically known as coxa saltans, is a condition characterised by an audible snap or click in the hip that occurs during certain movements. It’s a condition more common in athletes, dancers, and individuals engaging in activities involving repetitive hip movements.

This phenomenon is usually painless and harmless but can sometimes be accompanied by discomfort or pain. In some cases, it may indicate an underlying hip problem that requires medical attention.

Causes of Snapping Hip Syndrome

The development of Snapping Hip Syndrome is attributed to several factors, often related to the structure and movements of the hip joint. These causes vary depending on the type of snapping experienced:

External Snapping Hip

  • Repetitive Movement: Activities involving repetitive hip flexion, such as running, cycling, or dancing, can lead to the thickening or tightening of the iliotibial band or gluteus maximus tendon, causing them to snap over the greater trochanter.
  • Muscle Imbalance or Weakness: Imbalances in muscle strength and flexibility around the hip can alter movement patterns, increasing the likelihood of snapping.

Internal Snapping Hip

  • Tendon Changes: The iliopsoas tendon may become thickened, swollen, or tight, leading it to catch on structures within the pelvis.
  • Hip Joint Changes: Anatomical variations or changes in the hip joint structure, such as hip dysplasia, can predispose individuals to this type of snapping.

Intra-articular Snapping Hip

  • Joint Debris: Loose bodies such as fragments of bone or cartilage within the hip joint can cause snapping.
  • Labral Tears: Damage to the labrum, the ring of cartilage around the hip socket, can lead to intra-articular snapping.
  • Hip Conditions: Conditions like hip impingement or arthritis can contribute to this form of snapping.


The symptoms of Snapping Hip Syndrome vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. Commonly reported symptoms include:

  • Audible Snapping or Clicking: The most distinctive symptom is a snapping or clicking sound in the hip during movement, especially when getting up from a chair, walking, running, or swinging the leg around.
  • Feeling of Snapping: Along with the sound, individuals might feel a snapping sensation in the hip joint.
  • Pain or Discomfort: While snapping is often painless, some individuals may experience pain or discomfort, particularly during or after repetitive activities.
  • Hip Tightness or Stiffness: A feeling of tightness or stiffness in the hip area may accompany the snapping.
  • Swelling or Tenderness: In some cases, there might be swelling or tenderness around the hip joint.

When Symptoms Indicate a More Serious Issue

While Snapping Hip Syndrome is usually benign, certain symptoms may suggest a more serious underlying issue, such as:

  • Persistent or Intensifying Pain: Pain that worsens over time or does not improve with rest may indicate a more significant injury or condition.
  • Reduced Range of Motion: Difficulty moving the hip through its full range of motion can be a sign of joint problems.
  • Locking or Catching Sensations: If the hip locks or catches during movement, it could be due to loose bodies or cartilage damage in the joint.

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Diagnosing Snapping Hip Syndrome typically involves:

  • Clinical Assessment
    This includes reviewing the patient’s medical history and symptoms, along with a physical examination where the orthopaedic surgeon attempts to reproduce the snapping sensation and evaluates the hip for pain, range of motion, and muscle strength.
  • Imaging Tests
    While not always definitive for Snapping Hip Syndrome, imaging tests like X-rays, ultrasounds, and MRIs can rule out other conditions and assess the hip joint and surrounding tissues.
  • Dynamic Testing
    These tests mimic the movements causing snapping, aiding in the diagnosis of external and internal types of the syndrome.

Treatment Options

Non-Surgical Treatments

Non-surgical approaches are the first line of treatment for Snapping Hip Syndrome, focusing on symptom relief and addressing the underlying causes.

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Avoiding activities that trigger symptoms to allow for hip recovery.
  • Physical Therapy: Exercises to improve flexibility, strengthen hip muscles, and correct biomechanical imbalances.
  • Pain Management: Using NSAIDs for pain and inflammation relief.
  • Targeted Exercises: Specific stretches for the hip flexors, iliotibial band, and gluteal muscles; strengthening of hip stabilisers and core muscles.
  • Heat and Ice Therapy: Ice to reduce inflammation and pain post-activity; heat to increase muscle flexibility before activities.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: For cases with significant inflammation, particularly with associated bursitis.

Surgical Treatment Options

Surgery is considered when non-surgical treatments are ineffective, and the symptoms significantly impact the quality of life.

  • Iliotibial Band Release or Lengthening: For external snapping caused by a tight iliotibial band.
  • Iliopsoas Tendon Release: For internal snapping due to a tight iliopsoas tendon.
  • Debridement or Repair of Labral Tears: For intra-articular snapping related to joint issues.
  • Post-Surgical Rehabilitation: A crucial phase focusing on gradual strength and mobility restoration.

Dr. Kau Chung Yuan

MBBS (S’pore)

MRCS (Ireland)

MMed (Ortho)

FRCSEd (Ortho)

Dr Kau (许医生) is a Fellowship trained Orthopaedic Surgeon with a subspecialty interest in Hip and Knee surgery and has been in practice for more than 15 years.

He is experienced in trauma and fracture management, sports injuries, and joint replacement surgery.

  • Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, Orthopaedics (FRCS, Edin) 2014
  • Master of Medicine (Orthopaedics), Singapore (MMed) 2013
  • Member of the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (MRCS, Ire) 2009
  • Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS, Singapore) 2004

Prevention Strategies

Prevention of Snapping Hip Syndrome focuses on reducing the risk factors and maintaining healthy hip function. Key strategies include:

  • Regular Stretching and Strengthening: Incorporating exercises that enhance hip flexibility and strength can help balance muscle forces around the hip joint and prevent tightness.
  • Proper Technique in Activities: Ensuring correct form and technique in sports and physical activities can reduce undue stress on the hip.
  • Ergonomic Adjustments: Making adjustments to work and daily environments to reduce hip strain, such as using proper seating positions, can be beneficial.
  • Avoid Repetitive Motions: Limiting activities that involve repetitive hip flexion or extension may help prevent the development of the syndrome.
  • Warm-Up Before Exercise: Engaging in a thorough warm-up routine before physical activity can prepare the muscles and joints, reducing the risk of snapping.
  • Balanced Training Routines: Incorporating a variety of exercises in training to avoid overuse of hip muscles.

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Patient Feedback

Ethan Chan
Dr. Kau is an exemplary doctor who is experienced in his field and is very patient with his patients. He walked me through the details of my knee condition and addressed all my concerns. Thanks to Dr. Kau, I had a better understanding of my ACL and MCL injury and the various treatment options available. His advice and treatment have been very valuable to me.
Ming Lee Chua
Dr Kau was very careful and explained clearly the surgery procedures. After surgery, the care while I was in hospital was closely monitored and he even came during weekends! The hip so far has recovered and healed. His ‘predictions’ of when what can happen are so accurate. Trust him.
Teo Pek Suan Diana
I had a very successful total hip replacement done by Dr Kau 4 years ago. 4 months after the operation I was back walking, cycling and swimming. The beautiful job gave me much confidence Dr Kau is most professional and has such great doctor patient communication.

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    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Can Snapping Hip Syndrome Occur in Both Hips?

    Although Snapping Hip Syndrome is more commonly unilateral, affecting just one hip, it can occur in both hips. This bilateral occurrence might be seen in individuals who engage in activities that put a symmetrical strain on both hips, such as certain athletic disciplines. It’s important to note that the underlying causes and treatment may differ for each hip, even when both are affected.

    Is Physical Activity Safe with Snapping Hip Syndrome?

    Engaging in physical activity with Snapping Hip Syndrome is generally safe, but it should be moderated. Focus on low-impact exercises and those that strengthen and stretch the hip muscles without causing discomfort. Consulting with an orthopaedic surgeon for personalised advice and a tailored exercise plan is highly recommended.

    Is Snapping Hip Syndrome Linked to Other Hip Problems?

    Snapping Hip Syndrome may coexist with other hip conditions, such as bursitis or tendinitis. These conditions can either contribute to the development of the syndrome or result from the repetitive movements and strain that cause the snapping. It’s important to address these conditions concurrently to ensure effective management of the syndrome and overall hip health.

    Are There Long-Term Effects of Snapping Hip Syndrome?

    In most cases, Snapping Hip Syndrome, when properly managed, does not lead to long-term effects. However, if the condition is left untreated, the continuous snapping and associated strain can lead to complications such as tendon inflammation, bursitis, or even injury to the surrounding hip structures.

    Over time, these issues can cause chronic pain or lead to movement limitations. Early intervention and appropriate management are key to preventing long-term complications.