Why is My Hip Always Popping?
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Does your hip pop every time you do a grande battement or developpe? Or basically whenever you lower an extended leg? Chances are you may have Snapping Hip Syndrome, also known as Dancer’s Hip. I’ve had a number of students ask for advice on this issue, so what better topic for my first blog post?
Let me say before we go any further that I am not a medical professional by any stretch of the imagination. My knowledge of anatomy comes from a college course that was required for my B.A. in Dance, and my knowledge of Snapping Hip Syndrome comes from research and discussion with those who are affected by it. I have never experienced the condition myself. So as you read on, just know that this is where I’m coming from.
So what is it, exactly?
When all is working normally, your bones and all the muscles and tendons surrounding them move smoothly against each other. Hip popping occurs when the tendon gets “caught” on the bone, then snaps off sharply.
It’s kinda gross to think about, but it happens to us all the time. Whether you crack your back every morning or experience the chorus of pops when your class does a grande plie, everyone cracks a joint every now and then. But here’s the difference: In a normal body, your joints will stop popping after you’re warmed up. With Snapping Hip Syndrome, it never stops.
To understand why, you need to know a term called hypertrophy. You may have heard the word atrophy, which is when a muscle weakens and grows smaller, often to an unhealthy level. You’ve probably experienced atrophy if you’ve ever had your leg in a cast. It happens when you go a long time without using a muscle. Hypertrophy is the opposite, when a muscle becomes stronger and grows bigger. Athletes, especially dancers, gymnasts, and cheerleaders, tend to have very strong hip flexors because of the kind of stuff we do every day. And if part of the hip muscle structure becomes too bulky, it won’t move around the bones the way it’s supposed to, leading to constantly popping hips.
But if it’s about strength, why doesn’t it happen to everyone?
Bulk happens when a muscle gets stronger without being properly stretched. Think of a weightlifter standing next to a gymnast. Both are incredibly strong, but the gymnast is bound to be much more lean because she spends a lot of time stretching. A weightlifter has little need to stretch, so her muscles will just bulk up.
That’s a large-scale example, but it can happen in little muscles, too. If the muscles in your hip aren’t properly stretched, they’ll bulk up just like a weightlifter’s biceps. You won’t be able to see it, but you’ll feel it when it pops against your greater trochanter, which is a bony structure on the outer-top of your leg.
Is it curable?
Yes! This article from the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science states that most cases of Snapping Hip Syndrome can be treated by rest, stretching, and taking anti-inflammatory medication. If the problem persists, you may need to see a doctor and look into more specific medication or physical therapy.
The muscles to focus on are hip flexors, psoas, and abductors. Here are some stretches you can do for that:
- Deep lunges
- Lie on your back near the edge of a table, parallel with the edge, and let one leg hang off the edge.
- Be careful coming out of this stretch as it is very deep. Use your hands to lift the hanging leg back onto the table.
- Lie on your back and pull your knee to your chest
- Keep the knee bent, or else you will stretch the hamstring, not the psoas
- Lie on your back, lift one toe to the other knee, then twist the hips, lowering the knee towards the floor on the opposite side of the body. Keep both shoulders on the ground.
- You can straighten the leg for a deeper stretch.
- Stand with the feet parallel and fold over, placing your hands on the floor (or as close as you can get). Bend one knee, keeping the other one straight and allowing yourself to “sink” into the hip.
Where can I get more information?
Cited article from the Journal of Dance Science and Medicine: https://web.archive.org/web/20070929202434/http://lylemichelimd.com/articles/refereed/80a.pdf
Wikipedia article on Snapping Hip Syndrome: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snapping_hip_syndrome
“How to Get Rid of Popping Hip Syndrome,” Runner’s World: http://www.runnersworld.com/injury-treatment/how-to-get-rid-of-popping-hip-syndromecom
As always, but especially when dealing with medical needs, beware of websites spreading false information. Just because the URL has “med” or “clinic” or “doctor” in it, doesn’t mean it’s a legitimate source! Look for a website that ends in .org or .edu, or is well-known to be credible.