Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa. There are two major bursae in the hip that typically become irritated and inflamed. One bursa covers the bony point of the hipbone called the greater trochanter. Inflammation of this bursa is called trochanteric bursitis.
Another bursa — the iliopsoas bursa — is located on the inside (groin) of the hip. When this bursa becomes inflamed, the condition is also referred to as hip bursitis, however the pain is in the groin area.
The main symptom of trochanteric bursitis is pain at the point of the hip. Typically, the pain extends to the outside of the thigh area. In the early stages, the pain is usually described as sharp and extreme. Over time, the pain may become more of an ache and spread across a larger area of the hip.
In most cases, the pain is worse at night, when lying on the affected hip or when standing up from a chair. The pain may also increase with prolonged walking, stair climbing or squatting.
Hip bursitis can affect anyone, but is more common in women and middle-aged or elderly people. It is less common in younger people and in men.
The following risk factors have been associated with the development of hip bursitis.
- Overuse/Repetitive Stress injury. This can occur when running, stair climbing, bicycling or standing for long periods of time.
- Hip injury. An injury to the point of your hip can occur when you fall onto your hip, bump your hip or lie on one side of your body for an extended period of time.
- Spine disease. This includes scoliosis, arthritis of the lumbar (lower) spine, and other spine problems.
- Leg-length inequality. When one leg is significantly shorter than the other, it affects the way you walk, and can lead to irritation of a hip bursa.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. This makes the bursa more likely to become inflamed.
- Previous surgery. Surgery around the hip or prosthetic implants in the hip can irritate the bursa and cause bursitis.
- Bone spurs or calcium deposits. These can develop within the tendons that attach muscles to the trochanter. They can irritate the bursa and cause inflammation.
To diagnose hip bursitis, the doctor will perform a comprehensive physical examination, looking for tenderness in the area of the point of the hip. He or she may also perform additional tests to rule out other possible injuries or conditions. These tests can include imaging studies, such as x-rays, bone scanning and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The initial treatment for hip bursitis does not involve surgery. Many people with hip bursitis can experience relief with simple lifestyle changes, including:
- Activity modification.Avoid the activities that worsen symptoms.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Ibuprofen, naproxen, piroxicam, celecoxib, and others, may relieve pain and control inflammation.Use NSAIDs cautiously and for limited periods. Talk with your doctor about the NSAIDs you use. NSAIDs may have adverse side effects if you have certain medical conditions or take certain medications.
- Assistive devices.Use of a walking cane or crutches for a week or more when needed.
- Physical therapy.Your doctor may prescribe exercises to increase hip strength and flexibility. You may do these exercises on your own, or a physical therapist may teach you how to stretch your hip muscles and use other treatments such as rolling therapy (massage), ice, heat, or ultrasound.
- Steroid injection.Injection of a corticosteroid along with a local anesthetic may also be helpful in relieving symptoms of hip bursitis. This is a simple and effective treatment that can be done in the doctor’s office. It involves a single injection into the bursa. The injection may provide temporary (months) or permanent relief. If pain and inflammation return, another injection or two, given a few months apart, may be needed. It is important to limit the number of injections, as prolonged corticosteroid injections may damage the surrounding tissues.
Although hip bursitis cannot always be prevented, there are things you can do to prevent the inflammation from getting worse.
- Avoid repetitive activities that put stress on the hips.
- Lose weight if you need to.
- Get a properly fitting shoe insert for leg-length differences.
- Maintain strength and flexibility of the hip muscles.