What is hip bursitis?

November 12, 2012

What is hip bursitis?

Hip bursitis affects the part of your hip known as the bursa and can cause considerable pain and discomfort.

A bursa is a small fluid pouch located between a bone and its’ muscle or tendon, this pouch will prevent friction between the bone and surrounding soft tissue by allowing smooth motion between the two uneven surfaces. The hip joint has several varieties of bursa including -

  • Trochanteric bursa – located on the outside of the hip, connected to the gluteal muscles.

  • Gluteus medius bursa – smaller in size, this bursa is towards the middle of the trochanteric bursa

  • Iliopsoas bursa – lies at the front of the hip joint between the iliopsoas muscle and its’ underlying bone

  • Ischial bursa – at the base of the pelvis between the hamstring tendons.


The trochanteric bursa is the most commonly injured – generally in one of two ways, as the result of direct impact on the bursa (traumatic bursitis) or as the result of repeated friction from muscles and tendons, often the result of running, this friction causes inflammation, swelling and pain.

So, what is hip bursitis?

Hip bursitis is a common problem which results in pain around the outside of the thigh. This pain is the result of inflammation in one of the hip’s bursal sacs, pain occurs in the patient when tendon moves over bone – in a patient with hip bursitis this will occur with every step resulting in extreme pain.


There are a variety of causes of hip bursitis including -

  • A fall onto the hip

  • Overuse injuries causing biomechanical abnormalities

  • Anyone who walks with an excessive turn inward of the foot may be susceptible to this injury as it tends to increase the angle at the hip

  • Weakness in hip abductors

  • A bone spur

  • Tightness in any of the hips surrounding structures

  • Hip replacement surgery


Most treatments for hip bursitis are non-invasive and will aim to reduce inflammation. The main treatment is rest until the pain has subsided. The use of ice packs may be beneficial. Patients who are diligent about their treatment program should fully recover within six weeks. Since athletes are prone to this type of injury they should run only on flat, even surfaces until the bursitis is fully healed and may need to see a sports injury therapist who may well -

  • Prescribe anti-inflammatory medication

  • Conduct an X-Ray or MRI

  • Refer you to a physiotherapist

  • Use ultrasound to alleviate pain and inflammation

  • Drain the bursa

  • Administer a steroid injection

  • Rarely, long term injuries may require surgery

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