Stretches for the side popping and snapping hip

In the last post we saw a good example of a popping and snapping hip and I talked about the possible reasons for a popping/snapping hip.  Many of you appreciated the post and have asked me to talk about the hip pops that happen in the front of the hip.  That’s been duly noted and is on the list for a future topic to look at in the Dancing Smart newsletter.

Today let’s look at some stretches that you could do to work with the side hip pops.  Let’s start with stretching out the back of the hip.  There are many different ways to work with the turnout and gluteal muscles, and I have shown you recently one of my favorite sitting stretches.  Let’s add another stretch into the mix and see if it works better for any of you.

Picture-1-300x261  Begin lying down on the floor on your back, and crossing one leg over the other.  Lift your other knee up by grasping around the back of the thigh.  Now gently press the knee of the crossed leg away from your body (that would be the right leg in this picture) as you bring the left thigh slowly closer to your chest.

This is an active stretch.  You are actively contracting the turnout muscles on the right side, while you are stretching them by bringing the legs closer to your chest.  In essence, this is a variation on the sitting stretch that was demonstrated a few weeks ago.

It’s good to have many ways of stretching so you can figure out the best ways for you.  We aren’t all built the same – and what works for one StandingTFL2person – doesn’t always for the next.

Stretching the muscles on the outside of the hip (the abductor) can be easily done inthe standing position.  The photo on the right shows the most popular way of stretching those lateral muscles.  I also encourage dancers to use a tennis ball or pinkie ball against the wall to release and massage those often tight muscles.


The muscle that usually needs stretching the most is that all important but now always acknowledged  turn-in muscle, the tensor fascia lata or TFL.  Curiously, this week I assisted 5 dancers in getting a good release and stretch of their TFL muscles and it was magical when they came back to standing on one leg.  They felt like they could stand up more easily and effortlessly and access their turnout muscles without strain.

To stretch the TFL – lets use the popular iliopsoas lunge stretch and then shift from stretching the front of the hip to feeling the stretch towards the outside of the front of the hip.  The picture on the left is stretching the front, and then as the dancers turn towards their front leg they can feel the stretch moving to the side and are now stretching the TFL muscle.  If you don’t feel a stretch in that area – no problem – typically means you aren’t tight there!  But if you do feel a strongish stretch it would be a good variation to add into your stretching repertoire.


These muscles aren’t going to change their tightness overnight – but you’ll know you are on the right track if you stretch (especially, the TFL) stand back up and see if there is any difference in your ‘popping’ action at the hip.  It will be a softer clunk – or perhaps not pop, click, snap, at all!  (Hmm…all of a sudden I have a sudden desire for rice krispies:)

I hope everyone has a glorious Thanksgiving week.  I am thankful and appreciative of having such a warm and welcoming dance community – thank you for being a part of my life!


“Dance is the hidden language of the soul”  Martha Graham

What’s up with snapping/popping hips?

I had the pleasure of working with dancers from the Allegro Performing Arts Academy recently and they were the dancers shown in the picture on the post on strengthening the iliopsoas for higher extensions.  This week’s post is answering a common question about snapping or popping hips.  What does it mean?  There are different types of popping hip but first watch the clip below to see in action the type of popping hip I’m going to talk about.

The hip popping that is being shown in this clip is being caused by a tight IT Band snapping over the greater trochanter of the femur.  Huh?… what muscles/where are those spots you might ask?





The greater trochanter is the bump that is on the outside upper part of the thigh bone right before it angles in towards the center of the hip joint.







The IT Band, otherwise known as the iliotibial band, crosses over that area.  The iliotibial band is the fascial band that runs down the side of your leg that the gluteus maximus and the tensor fascia lata (TFL) muscles connect into high on the leg, and the band connects then to the bones below your knee.




The gluteus medius and minimus don’t connect directly into the iliotibial band, but their tightness creates an imbalance around the hip that may lead to this snapping or popping hip problem.




When there is excessive pull or tightness from one or more of these muscles the IT band will ‘snap’ or ‘pop’ over the greater trochanter when you lean into or stick your hip out to the side.  that is what you are seeing as the clunk in the clip.  It’s pretty impressive, huh?  I’ve been asked by dancers if they are dislocating something because it is disconcerting to have such a significant pop, snap, clunk… however you want to describe it.

The good news is…. you can work to decrease the tightness around the area and the clunking, popping, and snapping will diminish.  The other benefit to addressing this?  As you decrease the tightness your range of motion should improve and consequently make movements of the hip joint, like développé, battements, ronde jambe, etc. easier and more efficient.

Stay tuned… next week we will look at the 3 different muscle areas and I’ll give you ways to release each area!  Have a productive and joyful week!


“Education is the key to injury prevention”


Hip pops – sounds of trouble?

How do you know when hip popping and snapping is something to be concerned about?  A general rule of thumb is if you have pain in the joint along with popping sounds you want to see a qualified health practitioner.

There are three areas where snapping or popping may be felt and heard.  The most common area is at the outside of the hip at the greater trochanter of the femur. Snapping hip syndrome is named for the clunking sound that occurs at the greater trochanter when the dancer stands and shifts their weight onto the leg, which creates the snapping sensation and clunking sound.  Extremely tight lateral hip muscles create this clunk as they snap over the greater trochanter.  This is not a desirable action as it’s an easy way to develop bursitis or tendonitis in the greater trochanter area over time due to the constant irritation.  The solution is to stretch the lateral hip muscles.  You can do this by standing on one leg and letting the hip move sideways as the upper body.

The second area of popping is around the front of the hip. This pop is often heard during a kick or battement.  For some dancers their hip pops every time they lift their leg, and for others once they ‘pop’ their hip by standing on one leg tipping the pelvis forward as they lean to the side, it won’t pop for a while.  This type of popping is generally related to the iliopsoas tendon.  Sometimes the iliopsoas tendon snaps over the bony ridge of the pelvis or femur.  There is always a bursa that acts like a pillow between the joint and a tendon and when the iliopsoas bursa gets irritated and inflamed you will also feel pain in the front of the hip besides hearing and feeling the pop.  If you feel a popping sensation in the front of the hip try stretching out the iliopsoas by frequently doing a runner’s lunge stretch.  This stretch can be done standing with your foot up on a surface, sitting (as shown) or on the floor in the more traditional stretch.  If stretching the iliopsoas muscle helps decrease the popping, then briefly stretch before or after battements, and periodically during class between combinations and at the end of class. As with all tight muscles when you first begin to stretch, the muscle acts like a yo-yo.  You stretch it out and then it wants to go back to its original shape.  It takes time and commitment to truly change the flexibility of a muscle.

The third area where pops may be felt is within the joint.  Labral tears are often the cause. What is a labral tear?  Let’s start by remembering that the hip joint is a ball and socket joint.  The head of the thigh bone is the ball, and the acetabulum is the socket.  In latin ‘labrum’ means lip.  So the acetabular labrum is the ring of cartilage that is attached to the edge of the acetabulum and acts to deepen the bowl shape where the head (or ball) of the femur rests.

Injuries to the labrum can occur from chronic trauma, such as a dancer working to turnout their leg through sheer muscular determination and force, and also acute trauma, such as a fall or violent motion at the joint.

Signs and symptoms that accompany a labral tear may be pain with certain movements, (usually in the groin area), loss of strength, decreased range of motion, and a ‘catching sensation’ in the hip.

I checked in with sports physician, Vernon Patterson, DO, and asked him about labral tears at the hips.  He reported that the majority of patients with labral tears have a history of acute injury while weight bearing that resulted in a sudden onset of groin pain and a period of pain and disability.  The initial injury may have been earlier in their career, but memorable. If the dancer did not have any significant injury history to the area then he would be concerned about structural problems that could make them highly susceptible to other joint problems, including labral tears.

While the majority of hip popping is benign and won’t cause painful problems, they are a signal that the muscle balance around the hip needs to be evaluated. But if there is pain with the popping sensation see a physician.  Your hips will thank you for listening!

Hip Pops


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Onto the questions of the week – and hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend!

I have a 13 yr old female student whose right side hip “pops” out and in while dancing. She says especially when she tries to turn out more. What advice or suggestions can I give her? Sincerely, Tasha

As long as there is no pain during the hip ‘pop’ – I would suspect a muscular imbalance to how she is creating her turnout. The first logical place to check is the tightness of her hip flexors, specifically the iliopsoas. Try having her spend some time stretching the iliopsoas then see if she feels more hip freedom and less hip popping when she begins dancing. If so – then encourage her to do the standing lunge or the runners lunge in between exercises or when she is waiting to move across the floor.

Here is a picture of a sitting and hanging stretch for the hip flexors. You can also do a standing stretch as well as a runners lunge.

My question is a simple one. Is a woman of 32 years too old to commence dancing? I’m physically quite fit and strong. However, I know that being fit and able to do an hour workout class isn’t the same as being physically fit for dance. The type of dancing that I’m referring to is modern/contemporary dance. I started taking classes a few months ago when I realized that it was dance that I wanted to pursue-I know, it took me a while. I also find that whenever I do any sort of dancing, I find myself drawn to ballet type movements: I’m always on my toes, I’m always doing leaps–even before I ever saw these movements being performed. Are these movements typically found in modern/contemporary dance techniques? Also, does it matter that I look quite young? Although I don’t think that me looking young matters, I do look as if I’m in my early twenties. How much does age matter in this world? And last but not least, what is a good stretching exercise in order to achieve a good side leg lift? Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you. Nicole

The simple answer to your question about age and dancing is NO – it is never too old to commence dancing! There is much research that is being done on how exercise can reverse the aging process, even if you begin in the latter decades of your life. Dance is a good choice for many as it focuses on building strength and flexibility.

How much does age matter is an interesting question. To quote Jack Benny, “Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” I will admit to generally feeling that more mature dancers are more interesting to watch. For me athleticism without that special spark or connection is not as engaging. Mature dancers has more to do with life experience than age in years. What I know is our bodies as well as our brains are plastic, meaning there is constant change going on. If dancing brings you happiness and joy – then it is doing good things for you!

As far as your question about good stretching exercises to achieve a side leg lift I would focus on stretching the hamstring muscles at the back of the leg from the standing position.

Have a wonderful weekend!


“Education is the key to injury prevention”