Many people come into our clinic every day with chronic hip pain. While many of our patients have osteoarthritis and require a hip replacement or reconstructive surgery, others are diagnosed with the most common cause of hip pain – hip bursitis.
What is hip bursitis?
“Bursitis” means the inflammation of the bursae. So what are bursae? Bursae are fluid sacs located all around the body that act as cushions to prevent friction between bones and soft tissue.
The hip has two major bursae that can become inflamed or irritated. The most common area for bursitis to develop is located by the greater trochanter, the bony point on the side of the hip bone. If this becomes inflamed, patients are diagnosed with “trochanteric bursitis.” The other major bursa in the hip is located on the inside of the hip, by the groin. If this becomes inflamed, patients are diagnosed with “ischial bursitis.”
Hip bursitis doesn’t cause joint pain, so if you fear your pain is coming from your joint, you should see a doctor.
Pain and tenderness are the primary symptoms of hip bursitis. So if your pain mimics any of these below, you should see a doctor:
- Pain usually extends from the point of the hip to the outside of the thigh area
- It is often sharp and intense in the early stages of bursitis
- May turn into a dull ache all across the hip area
- Pain is usually worse at night, when lying on the affected hip
- Getting out of a chair irritates your hip
- Prolonged walking, climbing, or squatting irritates your hip
Where does it come from and who is at risk?
Anyone can develop hip bursitis, but it is more common in women, middle-aged, and elderly people.
Most cases of bursitis arise from overuse from a sport or activity, which is often caused by some biomechanical abnormality, like a leg-length discrepancy or weakness in the hip abductors. However, other cases often arise from an injury to the hip, like falls, bone spurs, or rheumatoid arthritis.
Medical doctors diagnose hip bursitis by doing a physical examination. Some may do an x-ray to rule out any joint or bone problems. They will check for tenderness and pain in the areas that cause the most discomfort.
Fortunately, most cases of hip bursitis don’t require surgery. People who suffer from it primarily need to rest, use anti-inflammatories, and ice the area. Much of the pain will usually resolve within a week, and then they can return to their activity – but take it easy at first!
However, if pain persists after resting, icing, and taking NSAIDs, people may need physical therapy, steroid injections, or use of an assistive device, if the pain is debilitating.
If your doctor is concerned that you may have an infected bursa, he or she may want to aspirate the bursa fluid in your hip and sent it to a laboratory for further testing. However, infected bursitis is somewhat rare.
Surgery for hip bursitis is rarely necessary. However, if you have tried all non-surgical treatments and are still having significant trouble, you may need to have surgery to remove the bursa. Today, this can be done arthroscopically, so the procedure is not very invasive and allows for a fast recovery.
Can you prevent hip bursitis?
The short answer is no, you cannot prevent hip bursitis. However, there are things you can do to keep inflammation down:
- Avoid repetitive activities that put stress on the hips
- Lose weight if you need to
- Get proper shoe inserts if you have leg length discrepancy or you overpronate when you walk/run
- Keep your hips strong and flexible
If you are concerned that you have bursitis or other hip problems, please call our office to schedule a consultation.