Part I: Do Your Hips Snap?
They shouldn’t. Allow me to begin by apologizing to every yoga student to whom I’ve ever said “if it makes a snapping sound and it doesn’t hurt, it’s probably okay”. I know better now and I’d like to officially retract that statement. The fact that your hip is snapping without pain today doesn’t mean you’re not setting yourself up for injury in the future.
It turns out that the cause of ‘Snapping Hip’ (that is actually a technical term) is usually one of three things – and NONE of them are okay:
1) Your IT band (a long, thick band of connective tissue that runs down your lateral hip and thigh, crossing both your knee and hip joints) is snapping over a bony protrusion. This is also known as external snapping hip.
2) Your iliopsoas tendon (in your front hip crease) is catching on a bony prominence. This is known as internal snapping hip.
In either of the above cases, the snapping sound you hear is the sound of your tendon being plucked by a bony prominence similar to the sound it makes when you pluck a tight elastic band with your finger! That snapping sound is a giant red flag. Your tendons should glide easily and soundlessly over the surrounding bony prominences. The strumming sound occurs because the soft tissues of your hip are experiencing friction. Continued friction will lead you down the path to inflammation and conditions that end in “-itis”. An “-itis” (meaning inflammation) is painful and unpleasant – like hip bursitis (which can be created by the IT band snapping) or hip tendonitis (in the case of your snapping iliopsoas tendon). So, you see, allowing your hip snap to continue is really NOT OKAY.
Another possibility is…
3) You have a labral tear, meaning that there is a loose flap of cartilage catching within your hip joint. You need to see a doctor for this.
If your snapping hip is caused by an overly tight IT band or iliopsoas, it is within your powers to re-set the level of tension in these tissues using a combination of massage, stretch and strengthening work so that your hip can once more move safely, silently and smoothly.
Also, stop doing whatever it is that makes your hip snap.
Want to learn more? Join me for Harmony from Hips to Heels, a Yoga Tune Up® workshop about how to get all of the joints and tissues of your lower limbs to play nicely with each other.
Alignment Matters by Katy Bowman
Snapping Hip Syndrome by Jonathan Cluett, M.D.