Health & Body

Here's What's Really Happening When Your Hips Make Noises

Getty Images

Snap, crackle, pop, crack, thunk, click.

Dancer hips can make an impressive variety of noises. Sometime these are painful, sometimes not; sometimes they're intentional, sometimes they just happen when dancing, cross-training or walking.

But what's actually making those noises—and should you be worried about them?


We spoke to Dr. Melody R. Hrubes, a New York City-based sports medicine doctor who works with dance companies, to break down what you might be hearing and what it means:

Busting the Hip Cracking Myth

Ah, the intentional dancer hip crack. It feels so good, and yet can be so startlingly loud that it's hard to imagine that it can be good for the body.

In fact, many of us have been told that, like cracking your knuckles, this method of relieving tension in the joint is harmful and can lead to arthritis.

But Hrubes says this is an old-school idea that isn't backed up by recent studies on the affects of knuckle cracking. As long as it feels good, Hrubes encourages dancers to crack their hips to decrease the pressure they may feel there. (Cracking has even been shown to increase range of motion in the knuckle joint, she says, though that doesn't necessarily mean the same is true for the hip.)

A woman lying on her back on a yoga mat, with one knee pulled into her chest.

If your hip is making noises, it may be tight.

Getty Images

A Guide to All the Other Sounds

When a dancer comes to Hrubes complaining of hip noises, she asks if it's more of a deep thunk you can hear across the room, a pop as if your hip is coming out of its socket or a high-pitched click:

The thunk: This is likely your iliopsoas tendon snapping over the bony prominence at the front of the hip. (You might hear this if you walk while externally rotated, bringing your knees high up to your chest.) This could be painless—the bursa, which is like an uninflated balloon over the bony prominence, reduces the tension as the tendon slides over it. But if it's painful, either the tendon or the bursa could be inflamed. If you're hearing this, it's probably due to tightness in the hip: The muscle is being overused, or is not being used in proper alignment.

The pop: If you're hearing more of a pop on the outside of your hip, that's likely the IT band gliding over the greater trochanter. (You might notice this while going up and down stairs, or if you go up on relelvé on only one foot and pop the knee forward.) Dancers often mistake this for their hip popping out of its socket. Similarly to the "thunk," this is likely a result of tightness and/or overuse.

The click: A higher-pitched click can indicate that there's something happening inside the joint—either a labral tear or a loose body (small fragment of cartilage) in the hip.

The Truth About Labral Tears

While a labral tear sounds scary, it's actually very common in dancers, says Hrubes. She says that some dancers make the mistake of getting them fixed surgically without first trying physical therapy to address the underlying cause of the tear. Unnecessary surgery often results in not being able to get back to the same level of dancing as before, due to residual pain, difficulty regaining hip strength and range of motion, or re-tearing the cartilage. (Plus, labral tears can be hard to diagnose, and are often mistaken for other issues in the hip.)

Instead, dancers with labral tears should work with a physical therapist, focusing on pelvis alignment and strengthening the hip rotators, core and posture.

A stock photo of a female doctor showing a young female patient something on a tablet.

Surgery isn't always the answer for labral tears, but you should see a doctor if you're in pain.

Getty Images

When to Seek Help

If the clicking, popping or thunking you hear is getting worse, is becoming painful or seems to be destabilizing the joint or decreasing range of motion, Hrubes encourages dancers to see a medical professional. Trying to stretch through it yourself could make it worse, she says.

In Memoriam
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Rauf "RubberlLegz" Yasit and Parvaneh Scharafali. Photo by Mohamed Sadek, courtesy The Shed

William Forsythe is bringing his multi-faceted genius to New York City in stripped down form. His "Quiet Evening of Dance," a mix of new and recycled work now at The Shed until October 25, is co-commissioned with Sadler's Wells in London (and a slew of European presenters).

As always, Forsythe's choreography is a layered experience, both kinetic and intellectual. This North American premiere prompted many thoughts, which I whittled down to seven.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Courtesy NBC

"Law & Order: SVU" has dominated the crime show genre for 21 seasons with its famous "ripped from the headlines" strategy of taking plot inspiration from real-life crimes.

So viewers would be forgiven for assuming that the new storyline following the son of Mariska Hargitay's character into dance class originated in the news cycle. After all, the mainstream media widely covered the reaction to Lara Spencer's faux pas on "Good Morning America" in August, when she made fun of Prince George for taking ballet class.

But it turns out, the storyline was actually the idea of the 9-year-old actor, Ryan Buggle, who plays Hargitay's son. And he came up with it before Spencer ever giggled at the word ballet.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox