If you hear or feel a snapping, popping sound from your hip when walking or standing up, you may have snapping hip syndrome. The snapping is the result of a muscle, tendon or muscle fibers moving over the bony hip points on the front, back and outer surface of the thigh. The most common site of snapping occurs on the outer hip where the IT band passes over the greater trochanter. If this condition becomes painful, incorporate some IT band stretches into your exercise routine to prevent injuries and decrease irritation.
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How It Happens
The IT band is neither a muscle nor a tendon, rather it is a connective tissue band that runs from the hip's tensor fascia lata muscle, down the lateral thigh to the outside of the knee. The IT band rests behind the greater trochanter of the femur when your hip is straight; it moves over the trochanter when you bend your hip. This movement of the tight IT band every time you flex and extend your hips can lead to hip popping, or snapping hip syndrome. Athletes -- including dancers, cyclists and runners -- who have tight muscles surrounding the hip joints are more prone to this condition.
Stretching the IT Band
The IT band's lack of stretch receptors makes it difficult to know whether you are actually stretching the band or other muscles and tendons. Furthermore, because the IT band passes over more than one joint -- the hip and knees -- it is difficult to fully lengthen it without using other muscles to compensate. Despite this, IT band stretches are still recommended to decrease contraction, according to Ann Schofield, P.T., MCSP in anaerobic management.
Lying IT Band Stretch
You can try stretching the IT band from a lying position, off of a firm bed or table. Sit on the edge of a bed and lie back so that your legs are off the table. Pull the unaffected leg into your chest to support your lower back and prevent it from arching. Your affected leg should remain off of the table with your knee bent to 90 degrees. Move the thigh of your affected leg across the midline of your body while keeping your lower leg steady to avoid twisting. Your thigh should remain on the table to avoid muscle compensation that occurs with lifting it up. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times.
Standing IT Band Stretch
A standing IT band stretch can be done standing with your affected leg next to a wall for support if needed. Cross your affected leg behind your unaffected leg and stick your affected hip out towards the wall as your upper body leans away in the opposite direction. Hold this stretch for approximately 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times.
Strength and Stability
In addition to a stretching program, rehabilitating popping or snapping hip syndrome should include a strength and stability program. Muscle imbalances between the muscles of your hips, gluteals, thighs and knees should be addressed, as should pelvic control and stability. Consult with a physical therapist who can advise you on the appropriate exercises, which may include bridging, single-leg bridging, single-leg squats and leg lifts.