Bursitis of the Hip

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What is bursitis?

Bursitis (say: “burse-eye-tiss”) is the painful swelling of bursae. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that cushion your tendons, ligaments and muscles. When they work normally, bursae help the tendons, ligaments and muscles glide smoothly over bone. But when the bursae are swollen, the area around them becomes very tender and painful. Trochanteric (say: “tro-can-tair-ick”) bursitis is swelling affecting the bursae of the hip.

Bursitis does not only happen in the hip. It can also occur in the shoulder, knee and elbow joints. Bursitis may be acute (short-lived) or chronic (long-lasting).


What are the symptoms of hip bursitis?

Symptoms include joint pain and tenderness, swelling and warmth around the affected area. The pain is often sharp in the first few days, and dull and achy later. You may notice it more when getting out of a chair or bed, when sitting for a long time, and when sleeping on the affected side.

Acute bursitis usually flares over hours or days. Chronic bursitis can last from a few days to several weeks, and it can go away and come back again. Acute bursitis can become chronic if it come backs or if a hip injury occurs.

Over time, the bursa may become thick, which can make swelling worse. This can lead to limited movement and weakened muscles (called atrophy) in the area.

Causes & Risk Factors

What causes bursitis?

Several things can lead to hip bursitis, including the following:

  • Repeated overuse or stress of the hip
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Gout
  • Pseudogout
  • Injury of the hip
  • Infection with bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus (or a staph infection)
  • Diabetes
  • Spine problems, such as scoliosis
  • Uneven leg lengths
  • Bone spurs (bony growths on top of normal bone) on the hip

Diagnosis & Tests

How is hip bursitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine you and ask you about your symptoms. Sometimes certain tests may be needed to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. These tests may include X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).


How can I prevent hip bursitis?

You can avoid getting bursitis by not putting too much strain on your hips. Avoid activities that are especially difficult or painful, and take breaks to rest your hips. When you exercise, remember to warm up your muscles and then stretch to prevent injury. If you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce pressure on your joints, including the hips.

Building strength in your hips with an approved workout routine can greatly reduce your chances of getting bursitis. Ask your doctor what types of exercise are best for you.


How is hip bursitis treated?

Treatment for bursitis usually involves resting the joint as much as possible. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (brand names: Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (brand name: Aleve) can be used to relieve pain and swelling. You also may want to use an ice pack on the area to reduce swelling. During this time, be sure to avoid activities that make symptoms worse.

Your doctor may recommend exercising the area once your pain decreases. This helps prevent muscle atrophy. Ask your doctor about exercises to help build strength in the area. If your bursitis is affecting your ability to function normally, you may need physical therapy to help you move again. This is especially true for people who have chronic bursitis.

If these treatments don’t help, you may need to have fluid taken out of the bursa or receive steroid shots to reduce pain and swelling. Steroid shots are usually very effective in treating bursitis. You may need another shot after a few months.

Surgery is rarely needed to treat bursitis. It is only used when all other treatments fail. For people who do need surgery, it is a simple procedure. The doctor removes the bursa from the hip. The hip can function normally without the bursa. Usually, the surgery doesn’t require a long hospital stay and the recovery period is short.


Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What could have caused my symptoms?
  • What is the best treatment option for me?
  • How long before I can expect relief from my symptoms?
  • Is it possible that my symptoms could return?
  • Is it safe for me to exercise? What kind of exercise should I do?