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Dance Pain-Free: Physiotherapy Tips to Conquer Snapping Hip Syndrome

What is Dance Physiotherapy?

Dance Physiotherapy combines manual therapy & clinical pilates techniques to help artistic athletes – dancers, gymnasts, skaters (and more!) reach their goals. Dance physio is ideal for artistic athletes of any level who are recovering from injury, preparing for pointe work, looking to prevent injury, improve mobility or overall performance.

Dance physiotherapy can help with a variety of conditions including:

  • Knee injuries – for example jumper’s knee & bursitis
  • Back injuries – including spondylolisthesis
  • Foot injuries – for example plantar fasciitis, bunions and achilles tendinopathy
  • Hip pain & injuries – including snapping hip syndrome
  • Chronic or acute ankle sprains
  • Overuse injuries
  • Joint Hypermobility

In this blog post we will be discussing snapping hip syndrome which unfortunately, is very common in dancers, particularly when extending the leg or coming into a grand battement.

What is the snapping or clicking sound? One of the most common sounds is a deep “clunk” when extending the leg. The most likely cause of this is spinal instability and/or over-recruitment and chronic thickening of your psoas muscle (your hip flexor) 

How do I get rid of the noise/ snapping sensation? By working on mobility, stability and then gradually loading the hip. Below are some great exercises to start with!

1. Aikido or “Frog” Mobilization

Come into Aikido or frog stretch position – knees wide on the mat, bottoms of the feet together, arms or forearms resting on the mat. 

Rest in this position for 10-15 seconds, allowing for a gentle stretch in the inner thighs and opening of the front of the hip. 

From here, bring your pelvis into a forward tilt (think about rotating the top of your hip bones towards the mat), and hold for a further 10-15 seconds. Engage your deep core in this position to get an even deeper stretch through the front of the hip! 

Alternate between these positions 4-5 times.

Note: There should not be any discomfort or pain in the hips during this mobilization. If you are feeling any pinching or discomfort decrease how far apart your knees are or consult your physiotherapist before continuing. 

One of the common contributors to snapping hip syndrome is when the outer, or lateral glute muscles have increased tension in them – this can occur when glute med grips to maintain turnout in standing – rather than the deep external rotators. 


  2. External Rotation in Table Top

Equipment needed: pillow or small ball 

Lie on the mat, back flat and deep core engaged. Slowly bring both legs up to tabletop position (knees bent at 90 degrees) with the small pillow or ball between your thighs. 

Maintaining inner thigh activation by squeezing the pillow or ball, slowly extend one knee in parallel. Then, from the deep hip socket, externally rotate your extended leg (coming into turn-out). Hold for 2-3 seconds and then come back to parallel and then back to your tabletop position. Continue to maintain the squeeze of the pillow/ball during this entire process. 

Repeat this up to 10 times on each side.

Tip: to ensure the core & deep external rotators are working, check that hip flexors are relaxed throughout this entire exercise.


3. Plié Variation targeting deep external rotators

Begin standing tall, in first position. Start with a demi plié and then, maintaining your turn-out (external rotation), slide one leg along the floor (in fondu – one side continues to be in plié, the other knee extends). The foot on the extended leg should come onto the ground. Then, while maintaining your weight over your standing leg (in plié), bend your extended leg while you slide it back to first position. 

During this movement you should be able to feel your inner thighs (extended leg) and deep external rotators (standing leg).

Tip: Place one hand over the outer glutes on your standing leg – these muscles shouldn’t be gripping or over-activating as the turnout should be coming from your deep external rotators.

Note: This exercise can be completed in centre or standing at the bar (or at a counter at home!)


Thanks for reading! Consult your physiotherapist if you experience pain or are interested in a personalized targeted program to address your specific goals!


Written by Talia Berson (Physiotherapist, Clinic Pilates Instructor).