The iliotibial band is thick tissue that extends from the pelvis and hip to the knee along the outside of the leg. With certain overuse activities, iliotibial (IT) band syndrome can develop, which is inflammation of this band at both the hip and the knee. Occasionally, the IT band can become so tight that it snaps over the greater trochanter of the femur located on the outside of the hip. This snapping is often audible when rolling the leg in an inward and outward motion and may feel like the hip is popping in and out of the socket.
Patients often describe pain on the outside of the hip, difficulty with lying on the side, pain with running, and radiating pain to the knee. This is a common injury in runners and also in those who participate frequently in hiking, cycling, and weight lifting.
Treatment for an external snapping hip involves extensive physical therapy to work on stretching the IT band and surrounding hip musculature. Physical therapy can often include foam roller massage of the IT band to aid in stretching. If conservative treatment fails, surgical intervention may be necessary.