The human body makes a myriad of noises, most of which are completely natural and totally harmless. That includes clicks, pops and snaps from your joints as you move around, particularly during exercise. This typically occurs when a muscle or tendon moves over a bone abnormally or when bones rub together and create friction.
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If your hip pops when doing leg lifts, it's known as snapping hip. It could mean that your hip rotators are weak and tight, which can be fixed. However, if you feel pain that accompanies a clicking sound, it could be something to be concerned about. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about it.
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Snapping Hip Syndrome
Your doctor may diagnose you with snapping hip syndrome if pain accompanies the clicking in your hips. Usually this occurs when the illotibial band, a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs along the side of the leg from the hip to just below the knee, snaps over the head of the femur, which is the thigh bone.
When you perform leg raises and your hip bends, the illiotibial band moves from the back to the front of the trochanter. This movement over the protrusion of the bone creates a snapping sound.
The tendon that runs from the inside of the femur to the pelvis, called the rectus femoris tendon, can also cause a clicking sound and diagnosis of snapping hip syndrome. When you perform hip raises, this tendon also moves across the front head of the thighbone, making an audible click.
In some cases, torn cartilage can cause a clicking feel and sound. In this case, pain is usually prominent and might cause your hip to lock up completely.
Stretch Tight Muscles
Tight hip muscles can contribute to snapping hip syndrome. Your quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh, hamstrings on the back of the thigh, glute muscles and iliotibial band can all be tight with this condition. Thigh muscle stretches should be held for 15 to 30 seconds at a time, repeating each stretch three times in a row. Stretches should be performed daily when you are having symptoms.
Stretches should not be painful. Hold each position where you feel a gentle pulling sensation. You might have some discomfort, but you should not experience sharp pain.
Stretch these muscles on both legs. Many of them attach to the pelvis, and tight muscles on one side of the body can contribute to dysfunction on the opposite side.
Other Exercise Considerations
If your hip clicking is because of bone friction, certain strategies can help stop the problem. Try doing leg raises with your knees bent or the legs positioned slightly apart. You may also limit your range of motion, keeping your legs a good distance from the ground when lowering them down.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says that hip clicking without pain needs no treatment. If the sound itself worries you, skip the leg raises and ice the area. You might also want to reduce the amount of exercise you do that involves the hip joint, such as cutting back on cycling and running, until you've straightened out your hips, while also working on strengthening your hips. Some moves to do that include:
Read more: Exercises to Strengthen Worn Hip Joints