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Orthopedics 101: What Is Hip Bursitis?

November 18, 2016 | By Nicole Simmons
Published in: Joint

Senior couple stretching before a walk

Are you experiencing hip pain but don't know what's causing it? Does the pain get worse after you sit still for a while? Does your hip feel tender? If these symptoms sound familiar, hip bursitis may be your problem.

What is Hip Bursitis?

Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act as a buffer between soft tissues, such as tendons and muscles, and bones to reduce friction. They can be found throughout the body, including in the knee, elbow, hip, heel, and shoulder. When these sacs become inflamed, the condition is known as bursitis.

The hip has two bursae. One is located on the inside of the hip and is known as the iliopsoas bursa. The other is found on the outside of the hip, covering the bony point of the bone. This sac is known as the greater tronchanteric bursa. The inflammation of the latter is known as tronchanteric bursitis and is much more common than an inflammation of the iliopsoas bursa, which is also sometimes called hip bursitis. Both conditions are treated in a similar manner.

Hip Bursitis Symptoms

Hip bursitis has a number of symptoms, including:

  • Pain on the outside of your hip, where it connects to the upper thigh bone
  • Searing pain in the outer, lower area of the hip. It could become more of an ache after a few days or weeks
  • Hip pain gets worse after long bouts of inactivity, like after sleep
  • Hip pain gets worse after doing a lot of repetitive motions with your hip, like walking
  • Hip is tender, trying to lie on it causes a sudden increase in pain
  • The pain seems to have extended over time, radiating to the outside of your thigh, lower back, groin or buttock

In some cases the bursae may also become infected, in which case you could come down with a fever. The hip area may swell, become red, and the skin becomes warmer than the rest of your body. If you have septic hip bursitis, you need to seek medical help immediately as a course of antibiotics will be required to stop the infection from spreading.

What Causes Hip Bursitis?

Injuries and constant repetitive motions that put pressure on the hip can cause hip bursitis.Hip bursitis has a wide variety of causes and there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of this condition developing. Injury or trauma to the hip can lead to the sac filling with blood and to the lining becoming inflamed. The blood will be reabsorbed, but the lining could remain inflamed.

A common cause of bursitis is repetitive pressure being placed on the hip. If you ride a bike, run, or stand for extended periods of time, you're at higher risk of developing hip bursitis. Age and gender are also factors as people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s are more likely to develop the condition and women are also more susceptible than men. Any issues that affect the bio-mechanics of your lower limbs can also lead to hip bursitis. For example, if you have knee osteoarthritis, it could lead to hip bursitis because you may be walking in a way that prevents knee pain but irritates the bursa at the same time.

Hip Treatment Options for Bursitis

There are a number of hip treatment options for hip bursitis. Treatment is aimed at controlling and minimizing the inflammation of the bursa, which is why rest is a very important part of the treatment. You have to wait for all your bursitis symptoms to disappear before resuming your normal activity.

  • Aspirin is used to alleviate hip pain and reduce the inflammation of hip bursitis.Ice is also a good option for treating hip pain as it can reduce pain and minimizing swelling. You should especially ice your hip after performing any activity that could lead to bursa inflammation.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen is often used to minimize swelling and inflammation while also reducing pain.
  • In rare cases, your doctor may feel that the best solution is to drain the bursa using a needle. You will be likely receive a cortisone injection at the same time.
  • Physical therapy is often prescribed to help strengthen and stretch the hip muscles, which may help alleviate bursitis and prevent it from occurring again.
  • If none of the previous hip treatment options prove effective, your doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections.
  • In the case of septic hip bursitis, you will have to take antibiotics. Normally, a course of oral medication will be more than enough. However, if you have a severe infection, hospitalization will be necessary and you'll be given the antibiotics intravenously.
  • The last hip treatment option is surgery but it's rarely necessary. Your orthopedist will only recommend surgery if you have chronic bursitis and it does not respond to any other hip treatments.

If you are experiencing hip pain and suspect it could be hip bursitis, give our Joint Center a call at (540) 332-5047. Our highly experienced team of orthopedists will work with you to identify the issue and provide a treatment that will alleviate your symptoms.