Quieting a Popping Hip Flexor

You’ve heard it:  that hollow clunk your hip makes during certain exercises.

It doesn’t hurt, but good lord, it sure doesn’t sound good.

You’ve probably heard that it’s a tight hip flexor muscle or tendon popping over the bone.  The solution must be to stretch your hip flexors, right?  Wrong.

Read on to discover how to go about quieting a popping hip flexor without stretching.

Which Hip Flexor is Popping?

There are a lot of muscles that flex the hip.  For the purposes of this article, we’re narrowing down the hip flexor umbrella to the psoas muscle.

The psoas can be considered part of your core because it attaches to your spine.  There is so much more to your core than just your abdominal muscles!

The psoas is typically tight and weak.  It’s tight because it’s trying to provide stability for another muscle that is not doing it’s job.  The tightness you feel may be a result of an anterior pelvic tilt where the hip flexors pull your pelvis forward and down.

The kicker here is that even though the psoas is tight – it’s weak.  When you massage or stretch a weak muscle it destabilizes.  It becomes weaker.  Your brain was using that muscle as a compensator and you took away your support.

The brain says, “Well that was interesting!  Let’s put that stability back in place, so the body doesn’t collapse.”  Then you get tight all over again.  It’s a vicious circle when you stretch and stretch and never get any results.

So the psoas is the popping hip flexor and needs to be strengthened.


What You Really Need to Stretch

Stretching the hip flexors can worsen the snapping hip.  So it’s important to determine which muscle actually needs to be stretched.

In my case, it was the Quadratus Lumborum (QL, pictured below.)













The QL was overworking for my psoas.

It’s kind of hard to effectively stretch the QL, so massaging it works better.

This is a common pairing, but not the only scenario.  The gluteus maximus could be overworking.  The only way to know for sure is to have your muscles tested.  I can do that for you!


Here’s a little more about my popping hip flexor.

Strengthening the Weak Psoas

I mentioned above that you need to strengthen the weak muscle.  The exercise below is the exact exercise I did for my corrective exercise homework.

Simply do it until you feel fatigue in the crease of your hip.  That’s your psoas saying, “I’m tired.”  The amount of reps will be different for everyone.  Keep your toes turned out.


A popping hip flexor means you’ve got a muscle imbalance.  Please stop thinking that everything that feels tight needs to be stretched.  Figure out why it’s tight.

Try the steps listed in this blog to see if your hip quiets down.  If it doesn’t, you have a different muscle relationship to explore.  If it does help, drop me a comment and let me know! 🙂

15 thoughts on “Quieting a Popping Hip Flexor

  1. Hi Sarah,
    My name is Hitesh
    My right hip is tight and tender and also tightness and tenderness above my right hip as well
    I am not sure which muscle group is it for me.
    My PT just suggested me stretches for the hip
    I have no improvement and also my lower back hurts.
    how to know for sure which muscles to stretch and strengthen to stop the popping and tighness.

    • If you’re arching your lower back, it may produce the popping sound in your hip. You may need to strengthen your transverse abdominis as well as your psoas. The only way to tell for sure is to get it tested. Visit the NeuroKinetic Therapy directory to find a practitioner in your area.

  2. Hey Sarah! I’ve been stretching my hip flexors for weeks and seen no improvement so I might have a similar issue. If my right hip is the one that is popping would I massage the left QL or the right one? Thank you! This was so helpful and I’m going to stop stretching and start some strengthening!

  3. micheal gilbert

    I’ve had a popping in my right hip for some time – only noticeable when I’m doing a spider plank type move, however I’ve had alot of issues with lower back (left side) and hip flexors that spasm often. This post sounds like it could be a solution to my issue – what’s the best way to massage the QL? and how often would you massage and do the exercises? Thanks,

    • Rub your lower back right above the bone on the same side that the hip is popping for 1-2 minutes. Twice daily, do that massage and follow with the psoas leg raises.

      • micheal gilbert

        Have you seen these problem areas present digestive symptoms before? The chiropractor I’ve been working with tells me that they can be related. Also, I’ve had some persistent shoulder blade/trap tightness and I’m beginning to think all of this could be related to the QL….
        Thanks for your help!

        • I wouldn’t be surprised if QL dysfunction is related to digestive problems. I do know that upper trap and QL are related though!

  4. Hi Laura,

    I have a curious problem. My ql and left buttock are chronically tight and my left hip pops when I raise and drop my knee. Any advice would be so greatly appreciated. It’s been months.

  5. How do you get tested to see what muscle is the problem? I remember having a popping in my right hip back in 2014 when I would walk. Thought it was no big deal and to this day, it literally feels like something tighten up at times when I lean a certain way and breathe. I have had low back pain since 2010. Any suggestions where to start? My chiropractor told me to do an exercise to stretch the hip flexor, but now I don’t know what to do.

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