Hip Bursitis

By Andrew Orpiano, MS, LAT, ATC

What is Hip Bursitis?

Hip bursitis, also known as trochanteric bursitis, is a condition characterized by inflammation of the bursa located near the hip joint. Bursae are small fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions between bones, tendons, and muscles, reducing friction and allowing smooth movement. In the case of hip bursitis, the bursa located near the greater trochanter, which is the bony prominence on the outside of the hip, becomes inflamed. This inflammation can be caused by repetitive stress or overuse, direct trauma to the hip, or underlying conditions such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Illustration of hip bursitis. JOI Rehab

Illustration of Hip Bursitis

What is the Primary Symptom of Hip Bursitis?

The primary symptom of hip bursitis is pain in the outer part of the hip that can radiate down the thigh. The pain may worsen with activities that involve repetitive hip movement, such as walking, climbing stairs, or prolonged standing. In some cases, the area around the hip may also become swollen and tender.

How is Bursitis of the Hip Treated?

Treatment for hip bursitis typically involves a combination of conservative measures, such as rest, avoiding activities that aggravate the symptoms, applying ice or heat to the affected area, and taking over-the-counter pain medications. Physical therapy exercises are often recommended to strengthen the hip muscles and improve flexibility. In more severe cases, when conservative measures are not effective, a doctor may consider corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation or, rarely, surgical intervention.

6 Best Exercises for Hip Bursitis

Here are 6 exercises that may be beneficial for hip bursitis:

  1. Low-Impact Cardiovascular Exercises: Engaging in low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, or using an elliptical machine can help improve blood flow, maintain cardiovascular fitness, and minimize stress on the hip joint.
  2. Stretching Exercises: Perform gentle stretching exercises to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tightness around the hip joint. Some effective stretches include:
  3. Standing Hip Flexor Stretch: Step forward with one leg, keeping the back leg straight. Bend the front knee and shift your weight forward, feeling a stretch in the hip of the back leg.
  4. Piriformis Stretch: Lie on your back, cross one ankle over the opposite knee, and gently pull the uncrossed leg toward your chest until you feel a stretch in the buttocks.
  5. IT Band Stretch: Stand near a wall with one hand on the wall for support. Cross the leg on the side you want to stretch behind the other leg and lean your hips out to the opposite side until you feel a stretch along the outer hip and thigh.
  6. Strengthening Exercises: Strengthening the muscles around the hip joint can help provide stability and support.

Hip Strengthening Exercises

Some recommended exercises include:

Clamshells: Lie on your side with your knees bent and feet together. Keeping your feet touching, lift your top knee while keeping your feet in contact with each other. Lower the knee back down and repeat.

Hip Bridges: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the ground, engaging your glutes and hamstrings. Hold for a few seconds, then lower your hips back down.

Side-Lying Leg Lifts: Lie on your side with your legs straight. Lift the top leg upward, keeping it straight, and then lower it back down.

Core exercises: Strengthening your core can help improve overall stability and reduce strain on the hip joints. Some effective exercises include:

Planks: Start in a push-up position, resting on your forearms instead of your hands. Keep your body straight, engage your core, and hold this position for as long as you can.

Bird Dogs: Start on your hands and knees. Extend one arm forward while extending the opposite leg backward. Keep your core engaged and hold for a few seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

Illustraton of man doing a bird dog exercise. JOI Rehab

Bird Dog Exercise

Recovery from Bursitis of the Hip

The recovery time for hip bursitis can vary depending on the severity of the condition, individual factors, and the effectiveness of treatment measures. In general, with appropriate treatment and self-care, most people experience improvement within a few weeks to a few months. However, some cases of hip bursitis may take longer to fully resolve. It’s important to note that hip bursitis is a condition that can recur or become chronic if the underlying causes are not addressed or if there is ongoing stress or inflammation in the hip area. Following the treatment plan recommended by your healthcare professional, including rest, physical therapy, and modifications to activities that may aggravate the condition, can help speed up the recovery process.

Remember to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercises as tolerated. If any exercise causes increased pain or discomfort, stop and consult with a healthcare professional. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan if you suspect you may have hip bursitis.

Written By: Andrew Orpiano, MS, LAT, ATC

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