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Snapping Hip Syndrome Exercises to Try at Home

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT July 25, 2021 0 Comments

Glute Bridge exercise

While snapping hip syndrome, also known as coxa saltans or dancer’s hip, is most often a benign issue, but it causes pain, inflammation, and puts the hip at a higher risk of injury in the future. After receiving a proper diagnosis of snapping hip syndrome, exercises can be incorporated into your recovery plan to address local tension and muscle imbalances that are causing or aggravating your hip symptoms. Keep scrolling for our list of physical therapist-recommended exercises.

Snapping Hip Syndrome Exercises

Designed to restore flexibility to tight tendons that are causing the snapping sensation, these exercises engage proper hip and core strength, plus help keep the pelvis and hip in balance; without unnecessary friction.

While all these exercises are great for any type of hip pain, there are three types of snapping hip syndrome ( Learn More Here). For each exercise, we will identify which type is being addressed when relevant.

1. Side-lying ITB Stretch

Ideal for external snapping hip syndrome

This exercise will provide great relief for any tension you are feeling in the side of your hip near the greater trochanter. The iliotibial band (ITB) is a tough but sensitive band of tissue that runs along the side of the thigh and can be responsible for snapping hip syndrome, so always start gently.

  • Lie on your side on an elevated surface (preferably a firm one if possible) with the affected hip facing up toward the ceiling
  • Get your back as close to the edge of the bed or table as possible 
  • Gently extend the top hip back, without arching the low back
  • Then, let the entire leg drop down toward the floor behind you until a strong stretch is felt in the side of the leg
  • Stay relaxed as you hold a deep stretch for 30-60 seconds
  • If needed, bend your lower knee for support
  • Repeat 2-3 times on each leg and switch as needed

Alternatively, you can do this stretch in standing with the affected hip crossed behind the other leg. Simply side-bend the entire body away from the affected hip until a stretch is felt.

2. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Ideal for internal snapping hip syndrome

The hip flexors, the muscles on the front of the thigh, are notoriously tight with any type of hip dysfunction. This stretch specifically addresses tension in the quads and iliopsoas tendons. This stretch can give you quick relief from hip pain in addition to reducing any knee and lower back pain.

  • Get in a lunge position with the leg of the hip you want to stretch behind you
  • Drop the back knee to the ground, putting a folded towel or cushion under the knee for comfort if needed
  • Make sure the front leg is far enough forward with the heel directly under the knee
  • Tighten the abs to protect the low back and prevent arching
  • Shift all your weight forward toward your front foot, without bending in the spine, until a stretch is felt in the front of the hip and thigh
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg

3. Seated Piriformis Stretch

Ideal for external snapping hip syndrome and general hip pain

The piriformis, a muscle deep in the butt, is a particular problem muscle that can cause excessive hip tightness and throw off lower body mechanics. Do not force this stretch if it is painful, as it can be a sign of bigger issues in the articular area of the hip joint itself.

  • Sit upright with good posture in a comfortable chair
  • Bring the outside ankle of the leg you want to stretch to your opposite knee in a “figure 4” position so that your hip is in external rotation
  • Make sure your hip is comfortable before you start to lean your entire trunk forward and over the legs
  • Continue shifting forward until you feel a deep stretch in the butt 
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg

4. Supine Hamstring Stretch

 

The hamstrings connect directly into the bottom of the pelvis. Thus, loss of flexibility can affect the function of the hip flexors (the muscles that work in opposition to the hamstrings) and overall pelvic balance. A daily hamstring stretch is almost always beneficial.

  • Lie on your back with a stretch strap, towel, or belt
  • Start with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor
  • Wrap the strap around the ball of your foot of the leg you want to stretch
  • Gently straighten the knee as you securely hold the straps with your hands
  • Once straight, continue by lifting your entire leg back toward your chest
  • Continue moving until a stretch is felt in the back of the leg
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg

5. Bridge

 

Now it’s time for some strengthening exercises. When it comes to snapping hip syndrome, the primary focus for strength should be on the glutes and core. The bridge is a perfect exercise for addressing both of these areas, plus it even gently stretches the hip flexors each time you lift your butt off the ground. Start slowly and adjust your range to prevent aggravation of your symptoms.

  • Lie on your back with the knees bent and both feet flat on the floor (hip-width apart)
  • Tighten the abs and glutes as you push through the feet to lift your butt off the ground
  • Make sure you’re not just pushing through the heels to prevent encouraging hamstring dominance or a cramp
  • Lift as high as is comfortable and hold for 1-3 seconds before returning to the starting position
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets total
  • To progress, hold weights on your hips or increase repetitions

6. Clam Shells

This exercise is great for addressing the small glute muscles, like the gluteus medius, that is often weak and throwing your hip mechanics out of balance. This exercise can seem simple but can quickly lead to some serious muscle burn when done correctly.

  • Lie on your side with the hips and knees bent to around 45 degrees of flexion
  • Make sure the knees, hips, and ankles are all in line with the spine
  • Tighten the abs
  • Then, keep the feet together as you lift the top knee up toward the ceiling
  • Lift as high as you can without rotation of the spine, pain, or excessive wobbling
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets

7. Double Leg Raise

Core strengthening of any type is always a great idea for hip pain. It provides better support to the low back, pelvis, and hips themselves, allowing everything to work in sync. Here is just one example of a core exercise you can try. You may need to modify your range of motion with this one if it causes a snapping sensation.

  • Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor
  • Tighten your abs to keep your low back flat against the floor while still breathing comfortably
  • Then, lift both feet off the ground while bringing your knees up and in line with your hips
  • Hold for 1-2 seconds before returning the feet to the starting position 
  • You should be able to do this move, in both directions, without your back arching, holding your breath, or straining
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets total
  • If too hard, try lifting just one leg at a time

What Aggravates Snapping Hip Syndrome?

There are a few primary issues that can lead to aggravation of snapping hip syndrome. Thankfully, the exercises above are a great place to start to combat this. Additionally, you should pair your home exercise program with other conservative treatment options such as foam rolling, heat, ice, and more.

Snapping Hip Syndrome Treatments

The most common hip aggravators include the following:

  • Too much or too little flexibility in surrounding muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissue of the hip and pelvis
  • Weak hip muscles or core muscles
  • Poor movement mechanics with daily activities or sports 
  • Repetitive motion of the hip, especially at extreme ranges of motion- most common with sports like dancing (particularly ballet dancers)
  • Ignoring symptoms of snapping hip syndrome until they have progressed to pain and tension

Follow Up with a Physical Therapist

You now have a great place to start with exercises for your hip to address both flexibility and strength. If you aren’t experiencing relief, there are a lot of factors that can play a role in this and it’s time to find a physical therapist. Physical therapy can help you understand the true underlying cause of your snapping hip and give you a personalized program that works.

If you experience a sudden change in symptoms or notice they are affecting your quality of life, make sure to get in touch with your physical therapist or orthopedic doctor as soon as possible for further medical advice from your healthcare provider.

Sources:

https://www.myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=bo1646

https://www.physio-pedia.com/Snapping_Hip_Syndrome

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Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.



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