What the SNAP Causes Hip Pain?
This blog about causes of hip pain was written by Kaitlin Iversen, PT, DPT, Cert-DN React Physical Therapy
Nearly every daily activity requires the use of your hips. Standing, sitting, walking, exercising – they’re all common ways that you engage the lower portion of your body. Short term pain in the hips, legs and lower back is common, but you shouldn’t live in pain.
If your hips are sore or you experience lingering hip pain with daily activities, it’s time to seek help from a physical therapist.
Common Causes of Hip Pain and Discomfort
Some of the most common causes of hip pain include:
Some of these conditions are much more prevalent than others, especially when it comes to the age and lifestyle of patients. To understand how and why they impact people’s lives, read on to find out more about three of the most common causes of hip pain – and how to treat them properly!
What Is Snapping Hip Syndrome?
SNAP, CRACKLE, POP!
These three infamous words are commonly used to describe the unnerving and uncomfortable hip sensation that is often referred to as snapping hip syndrome. Also called “dancer’s hip,” this condition causes pain and discomfort for those that experience it. The audible or palpable snapping sound is created by the anatomical structures and the way that the muscles and tendons pass over the bony prominences with each hip movement.
The two classifications include external and internal snapping hip. Both are unpleasant, but they differ in the root cause and treatment.
Types of Snapping Hip
External snapping hip
Most commonly seen in the general population, this condition is characterized by dysfunctional muscle movement on the outside of the hip. To diagnose, patients will be asked to lay on their side while the hip is moved into flexion and extension. From this position, the external snapping can be felt or seen by the naked eye. The external snapping is the result of the iliotibial band (IT band) and the front portion of the gluteus maximus (buttock) muscle traveling over the greater trochanter of the femoral head on the outside of the hip. To put it simply, the IT band should remain behind the thigh bone – but when dealing with this condition, that isn’t the case.
This movement causes the uncomfortable SNAP sensation, as well as lingering discomfort.
Internal snapping hip
Internal snapping hip is more commonly known as “dancer’s hip”. It’s often described as the locking of the hip followed by an audible SNAP in the front portion of the hip and groin area.
This happens when the iliopsoas muscle (hip flexor muscle) passes over the front of the femoral head and other smaller bony prominences with movements of high frequency. This motion is attributed to activities with repetitive hip flexion and external rotation, like a dancer’s performance.
Arthritis Causes Hip Pain, Too
Unlike snapping hip syndrome, arthritis doesn’t involve the movement of muscles – it’s caused by an inflamed joint. Over time, if left untreated, arthritis worsens, and can even spread to other areas. Don’t let this happen. When you know the warning signs of arthritis and hip or other joint pain, you can take action.
In addition to hip pain and discomfort, people with arthritis may also experience the following:
- Limited range of motion
There are many types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the main causes of hip pain and discomfort.
A medical diagnosis is necessary to determine and begin the right course of treatment. The key to arthritis treatment is to decrease pain levels and increase activity levels whenever possible.
Sciatica is Not Just a Back Problem
The sciatic nerves are larger than any other nerve within the body. For many people, these nerves are the cause of extreme pain. Since these nerves are located near the hip joints, it’s common for issues with them to impact this area of your body.
Irritated nerve roots are the cause of sciatic pain, and the level of pain varies depending on what part of the nerve is impacted. While sciatic pain originates in the lower back, it’s common for people to experience radiating pain, too.
If you experience hip pain and discomfort caused by sciatica, it may be a sign that you favor an area of the body. For example, resulting hip pain may be because you’re overcompensating by choosing to sit or stand differently, putting more strain on one area. This may help relieve the sciatica pain temporarily, but it causes other issues simultaneously.
All parts of the body work together, which means that when one is affected, others follow.
Causes of Hip Pain and Discomfort Explained
While performing daily activities and participating in recreational sports, you move around a lot. It is very common during these times to rely on certain movement patterns. These often become repetitive and over time, can lead to overuse injuries. An overuse injury is just what it sounds like – an injury that occurs when people don’t listen to their bodies and work them too hard, too much.
Current research demonstrates that snapping hip syndrome as well as other similar causes of hip pain are commonly the result of this overuse phenomenon.
The body is amazing because it adapts. Over time, the patterns we perform countless times over will lead to the inappropriate recruitment of muscle. This often creates significant muscular restrictions and imbalances as time passes. It is these imbalances that lead to snapping hip syndrome, hip pain, and muscle sprains or strains.
Luckily for people that experience these, or worry that they will in time, there are treatment options — many of which you can do yourself!
You don’t need to wait until you experience the above symptoms or have been diagnosed with a hip pain condition to take action, either. Changes to your lifestyle, like safely incorporating exercise into your day are doable at any time.
Exercises to Relieve Hip Pain
Exercises with low impact, like swimming, stretching, and resistance training can reduce pain and improve joint mobility. These types of exercise require movement and use of different muscle groups throughout the body.
When looking to the right kinds of exercises to incorporate as a way to combat hip pain, always consider the following.
1. Only do what feels appropriate. You cannot go from being inactive or in pain to pain-free and running marathons overnight, so be prepared to build up tolerance and strength over time. Doing too much right away may result in further pain.
2. Consider using multiple methods for exercise. Many of the above mentioned exercises aren’t meant to be standalone undertakings. Combine swimming with stretching, or resistance training with eating properly and cardio. Find out what works for you and go from there.
3. Consult the experts. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with sciatica, snapping hip syndrome, or arthritis, talking with those that know and understand the causes of hip pain and the ways to prevent it is the right call. Reach out to your doctor or a medical expert before making changes.
Doctors aren’t the only ones that provide advice when it comes to hip pain and injuries – physical therapists are a great resource, too. Physical therapists are experts in evaluating and correcting movement patterns. Working with a physical therapy professional may not only decrease discomfort; it can also increase range of motion, too.
How Physical Therapy Helps With Hip Pain
Research also indicates that a conservative and comprehensive approach like physical therapy can assist with the diagnosis and treatment of snapping hip syndrome.
Your physical therapy program will be specifically focused on multiple areas. They include:
- Strengthening the posterior chain and core muscles
- Improving length/tension relationship of the hip musculature
- Addressing pelvic alignment
- Addressing functional movement patterns
Again, physical therapy doesn’t change things overnight. It’s a slow and steady process that is expedited by careful and thorough focus from you – the patient – and your physical therapist. The causes of hip pain aren’t the same for everyone, so having a plan helps. How? It allows you to work on the specific areas that need it most with the exercises that offer the greatest benefit.
What to Expect During Physical Therapy for Hip Pain
The first physical therapy visit will consist of an initial evaluation.
Your physical therapist takes this time to develop an accurate diagnosis and recommend the proper treatment plan for you, specifically. During this visit, your therapist will ask about the history of your problem, the aggravating and relieving factors, and any past medical history that may be related to your current condition.
The examination may also include the following.
- Gait evaluation
- Range of motion measurements
- Functional ability tests
The goal is to ensure that moving forward, you have the tools to improve your health, reduce or eliminate hip pain, and keep yourself safe. This sounds like a lot of work from the get go, but it’s well worth it as soon as you begin to see and feel a difference.
Unsure of where to look for physical therapy to help manage the causes of hip pain? Read on!
Know the Causes of Hip Pain? It’s Time to Learn How to Lessen Their Impact
Your local physical therapy clinic can help you get back on track, even after a diagnosis like sciatica or arthritis. Hip pain is common – thousands of people each year experience it. Finding a physical therapist using the BetterPT clinic location tool or mobile app is the first step.
Choose a clinic like React Physical Therapy, or simply pick the one that you feel will best help you reach your goals. The goal is seeking the help of a professional.
Next, decide how you want to attend your appointments – either with in-person visits or by using a platform like BetterTelehealth to see your physical therapist virtually. No matter what you choose, know that you are setting yourself up for success.
The longer you leave your new or lingering hip pain untreated, the more uncomfortable you’ll become. Don’t let sore and aching muscles and joints derail your plans – seek out a physical therapist to manage the causes of hip pain today!
Kaitlin Iversen is a physical therapist with React Physical Therapy specializing in collaboration with diverse groups to treat patients of all types. Her focus was on orthopedic injuries for all age groups after graduating with her Doctorate in physical therapy from Midwestern University. As a former college athlete, Iversen understands the need to approach treatment with a focused but adaptive approach. Getting people back into their active lifestyles is her main goal.
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