The symptoms, diagnosis and treatments of hip bursitis

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The symptoms, diagnosis and treatments of hip bursitis

Our hips are very versatile, being one of the most important joints in the human body. Our hips allow us to walk, run and jump. It also carries our body’s weight and thus gives us the power and stability to accomplish tasks. The hip joint is also one of the largest and strongest joints in the human body. That is why hip pain can hinder us in accomplishing a lot of tasks, and if you are an athlete, having hip pain can be a major hindrance. One of the most common conditions that affects the hips is hip bursitis, a pain which can linger for weeks. Sometimes, the pain can wake you up at night.

In this article, we will learn about this condition, its symptoms and what you can do to treat and prevent it.

What is hip bursitis?

Bursitis is the painful swelling of bursae, which are fluid-filled sacs that act like a cushion for your tendons, ligaments and muscles. The bursae help the tendons, ligaments and muscles glide smoothly over the bone. Bursitis occurs when the bursae are swollen and the area around them becomes very tender and painful. It usually happens in the hips, shoulder, knee and elbow joints. Bursitis may be acute (short-lived) or chronic (long-lasting). Over time, the swelling may worsen and can lead to limited movement and weakened muscles in the area. The weakening of muscles is called atrophy.

When the bursa outside of the hip gets inflamed, it is called trochanteric bursitis, also known as greater trochanteric pain syndrome (GTPS). Fortunately, trochanteric bursitis is easily treatable.

Symptoms of hip bursitis hip

Symptoms of hip bursitis include joint pain and tenderness. You may also see swelling and feel warmth around the affected area. The pain is often sharp during the first few days, and you can feel it more when you get out of bed or stand up after sitting. You may also notice it when sitting for a long time and when sleeping on the affected side.

Acute bursitis happens only for a few hours or days, while chronic bursitis can last from a few days to several weeks, and it can sometimes return even after you think it has healed. Acute bursitis can become chronic if it comes back or if a hip injury occurs.

What causes hip bursitis?

The hip bursae may also become swollen through repeated friction on the bursa (such as running and high impact activities over prolonged time) that leads to inflammation and swelling of the synovial lining in the bursa. Other contributors include, but are not limited to, poor posture, poor body mechanics, unequal leg length or a limp. These conditions over time overstress the tissues in the region of the greater trochanter, leading to inflammation and pain.

Scoliosis, lumbar and sacroiliac joint arthritis, as well as other spinal conditions, are also common contributors to hip bursitis. Other things that can lead to hip bursitis include:

  • Gout
  • Pseudo gout
  • Hip injuries
  • Infection with bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus (or a staph infection)
  • Diabetes
  • Bone spurs (bony growths on top of normal bone) on the hip

How is bursitis of the hip diagnosed?

When you visit your doctor, you will most likely undergo a physical exam. Your doctor may ask how long you’ve been experiencing the symptoms and which specific movements trigger the pain. While bursitis doesn’t register on X-rays, you may still need them to rule out other issues. You may also undergo an ultrasound test and an MRI if your hip isn’t responding to previously recommended treatments.

In some cases, your doctor may inject your bursa with an anesthetic. If the pain goes away at once, you most likely have trochanteric bursitis.

Hip bursitis treatment

Give your hips time to heal by resting. You may use walkers or crutches to reduce pressure on your hips when moving.

Treating bursitis usually involves strengthening the hips through various exercises and stretching. These exercises help prevent muscle atrophy. Ask your doctor which exercises help in building hip strength. Bursitis may affect your flexibility and your body’s normal function. If you have chronic bursitis, you may need to undergo physical therapy to help you move again. Avoid activities that cause too much pain or strain on your hips.

Ice also helps relieve hip pain. Apply ice packs to your hip every four hours for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Cold acts as a local anaesthetic and numbs the area, which reduces pain, swelling and inflammation.

Your doctor may also recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), as well as prescription pain relievers such as celecoxib (Celebrex) to relieve pain and swelling. If the pain still persists even after the treatments, you may need to have fluid taken out of the bursa or have steroid shots to reduce pain and swelling. The injection may provide a few months or even permanent relief. If the pain and inflammation return, another injection or two, given a few months apart, may be needed. It is important, however, to limit the number of injections, as it may damage the surrounding tissues if prolonged.

Surgery is only recommended for rare cases or when all other treatments fail. If your doctor has indeed recommended surgery, they will usually need to remove the bursa from the hip. There is no need to worry about this, since the hip can function normally without the bursa. Usually, the surgery doesn’t require a long hospital stay. The recovery period is often short.

Managing chronic bursitis

If you have chronic bursitis, try to minimize flare-ups by stretching each day to increase range of motion. Avoid activities that you know will result in pain. Repetitive-motion activities are especially bad for bursitis. If you do have a flare-up, remember that resting your hip is important. Without proper rest, healing is delayed.

Also, if you are born with one leg shorter than the other, wear proper orthotics or insoles, which can even out your gait. If you’re overweight, you will need to drop some pounds — it’s a sure way of taking pressure off your hips.

Got a question, or anything I can help with? My name is Steve Stretton, and I’m the owner and manager at You can drop me a line here. Good luck!

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