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What causes hip popping while walking?

When an individual experiences hip popping while walking, it can be quite intimidating. Luckily, clicking or snapping in the hip area without any pain is rarely an issue for concern. In most cases, hip popping is an outcome of tissue and muscle imbalances that can be corrected with stretching and exercises. The usual causes of hip popping include a hip labral tear, snapping hip syndrome and femoral acetabular impingement.

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Hip labral tear

Hip labral tears are known to occur abruptly or over time. The hip labrum is a small-sized cup of fibrocartilage that is responsible for providing joint stability. Once the labrum is torn, the stability of the hip is compromised which results to hip popping or a catching sensation while walking. It is important to note that this injury is often accompanied by groin pain and diagnosed with orthopedic testing and medical imaging.

Snapping hip syndrome

Hip popping
The hip popping might be due to femoral acetabular impingement which is characterized by hip popping and pain due to repetitive abnormal friction inside the hip joint.

Snapping hip syndrome refers to tissue and muscle imbalances that result to a perceivable snap in the hip during movement. The most common type is the external snapping hip syndrome where the iliotibial band snaps across the exterior perimeters of the hip bone. As for an internal snapping hip syndrome or dancer’s hip, it is caused by an internal hip tendon that slides over the pelvic bone.

Femoral acetabular impingement

The hip popping might be due to femoral acetabular impingement which is characterized by hip popping and pain due to repetitive abnormal friction inside the hip joint. The biomechanical abnormalities present at birth as well as developmental changes throughout the years are contributing factors to friction in the hip. It is sad to note though that without activity modification and proper diagnosis by the doctor, the condition can progress to a point which requires surgical intervention.

Treatment

In most cases, a physical therapy program that involves stretching, strengthening of the hips and foam rolling can often resolve snapping hip syndrome. Nevertheless, if the hip popping is accompanied by tingling, pain or numbness, an assessment by a doctor is required. A thorough evaluation can determine the underlying cause of the hip popping. In most cases, the doctor might recommend an anti-inflammatory injection or even surgery in severe cases.

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