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Hip bursitis

Hip bursitis can lead to pain on the outside of the hip. We look at the symptoms of hip bursitis and available treatments.

A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that sits near a joint. It acts as a cushion between the bones, muscles and ligaments. This soft tissue reduces friction and helps to protect a joint from shock and impact.

When a bursa becomes inflamed it produces excess fluid, causing it to swell up and sometimes form a lump. This is called bursitis.

In bursitis of the hip, the inflammation can occur on the outside (lateral) of the upper thigh bone (femur), at a bony prominence called the greater trochanter. Pain in that area of the hip is usually referred to more broadly as Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome.

While inflammation of a hip bursa will often resolve itself naturally after a couple of weeks, more severe or long-lasting cases may require treatment. If you are suffering with painful hip that is affecting your mobility, it may be wise to have an assessment with an orthopaedic consultant.

Inflammation of the bursa can be due to infection or injury. Should this happen, the inflamed bursa will put increased pressure on nearby structures and tissues, causing pain and swelling.

While bursitis may develop spontaneously, there are certain things that can increase the likelihood of a hip bursitis. Bursitis is more common in:

  • Women: Men are less likely to develop the condition.     
  • Obesity: For people who are overweight, the tendons around the hip may be overloaded.        
  • Back problems: People who are suffering from back issues can sometimes change the way they use their hips. This puts more strain on the tendons, which increases the potential for tears and inflammation.        
  • Overuse: Playing a sport that involves a lot of hip movements and mobility may aggravate the gluteal muscles or tendons.  
  • Injury: A hard blow to the side of the hip also has the potential to damage the bursae or its surrounding tissue.

Hip bursitis pain is generally felt in the outer (lateral) side of the hip. However, some people may suffer from referred pain, which radiates down the outside of the upper leg. You may also notice a subtle swelling on the outer side of the hip.

The symptoms of a hip bursitis are aggravated by any posture that places direct pressure over the affected region or activities that require repeated flexion and extension of the hip joint.

There are several activities that can aggravate the pain, these include: ·     

  • Lying on the affected side ·       
  • Prolonged sitting (which can cause tension in the iliotibial band that overlies the bursa in the hip)       
  • Walking      
  • Cycling and running

Your doctor will be able to diagnose hip bursitis by conducting a physical examination and taking a history of your condition. Along with pain, the main feature of a hip bursitis is often tenderness when pressing the outside of the hip.

Although trochanteric bursitis symptoms, hip bursitis symptoms and greater trochanteric pain syndrome symptoms are very similar, an experienced consultant will be able to determine the precise cause of the pain. X-rays and MRI scans are not routinely required to diagnose the condition.

Once an examination has been carried out and a hip bursitis diagnosis has been made, your doctor will discuss the treatment options with you.

It is possible that a hip bursitis may resolve itself naturally within a couple of weeks, and rest will play a significant role in how you treat a hip bursitis. Rest helps to reduce the risk of additional strain, aggravation or injury to the hip.

The first course of action in hip bursitis treatment is to tackle the hip pain. This can be done with over-the-counter pain medication or by applying an ice pack to the affected hip. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help with pain relief.

Then next step is treat the hip bursitis causes. So if the pain is aggravated during sport then it is best to cease that particular activity while you allow the bursa to heal itself.

However, if the bursitis is causing long-term or severe pain and you are also experiencing a loss of movement in your hip, then a range of treatments are available. These include:

  • Physiotherapy: Your consultant may recommend a course of physical therapy to help you recover from a hip bursitis. A physiotherapist will show you a range of strengthening exercises, movement and stretches that will build up your gluteal muscles. This will help to reduce any inflammation in the hip. A physiotherapist may also address the biomechanics of the spine and pelvis interface to ease and relieve the pain. This may involve strengthening certain muscle groups or helping change the way somebody walks.        
  • Weight-loss: Reducing the weight-bearing strain placed upon the hip muscles may also beneficial during the hip bursitis recovery time.  
  • Sensible exercise: Certain exercises, such as long walks, may make a bursitis worse. Therefore, it is important that you reduce the amount of exercise you do in the early stages of treating a hip bursitis. A physiotherapist will help you to slowly increase the amount of exercise over time. They will also show you specific hip bursitis exercises and hip bursitis stretches that won’t aggravate the condition. Vigorous exercise should be avoided until you have recovered.  
  • Steroid injection: A steroid and local anaesthetic injection can be of help in easing hip bursitis pain. A hip bursitis injection targets the area that is causing the problem. The pain-relieving effects of the cortisone injection can last for anywhere between six weeks to three months. This will enable you to make rapid progress with your rehabilitation and physiotherapy.    
  • Surgery: While fairly uncommon, there are times when a surgical procedure may be required to treat a hip bursitis. This may be an option after a course of physiotherapy or steroid injections have not managed to reduce the pain. Hip bursitis surgery may be complex depending on the severity of the hip bursitis. Should a hip bursitis require surgery, this will be explained in detail by your consultant. You will have the chance to ask them any questions you may have about the procedure and your recovery from the surgery.

Specialists Offering Hip bursitis

Mr Arif Razak

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

BSc (Medical Science), MBChB, FRCS (Trauma and Orthopaedic)

BMI The Highfield Hospital

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Mr Robert Duthie

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MBChB, FRCS (Tr & Orth)

BMI Albyn Hospital

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Mr Mujahid Syed

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon


BMI Kings Park Hospital

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Mr Panamoottil Anil Kumar

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MBBS, MS Orth, D Orth, Dip NB Orth, FRCS (Glas), FRCS (Tr &Orth)

BMI The Blackheath Hospital 1 more BMI The Sloane Hospital

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Mr Nitin Badhe

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

FRCS(Orth), Mch Orth, MS Orth, DNB Orth, FCPS Orth, D’Orth, MRCS Surg

BMI The Park Hospital

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Mr Harvey Sandhu

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MA MBB Chir FRCS (Tr & Orth)

BMI Bath Clinic

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