A bursa is a fluid-filled space that acts as a cushion between tendons, bone, and skin which helps your joints move with ease. There are over 150 bursae in your body, and several are found around the outer area of the hip, near the portion of your thighbone (the femur) called the greater trochanter. Bursitis occurs when a bursa becomes inflamed, and it is a common cause of pain to your hip.
Inflammation of a bursa is caused by repetitive-use injuries, prolonged pressure, lumbar spine diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and sometimes infection. It can affect anyone at any age, but is most common in women and the middle-aged. The main symptom is aching pain over the part of the outer hip. The pain worsens with movement or pressure and may travel down the outside of the thigh toward the knee. Pain caused by pressure at night can make sleeping very difficult.
Your doctor will be able to diagnose bursitis when he or she physically examines the specific area causing pain and tenderness. However, an X-ray may be taken to rule out other causes.
Initial treatment of bursitis involves resting, immobilizing the area, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and relieve pain, a regimen that is often effective. Exercise and physical therapy, especially for the hip and lower back, can be helpful to strengthen the surrounding muscles and help prevent further episodes. If these measures don’t relieve your pain, a doctor may recommend an injection of corticosteroids around the bursa, which usually brings rapid pain relief. Surgery to remove the damaged bursa may be an option in severe cases.
To help prevent bursitis, try:
- Stretching your hip muscles before activity
- Practicing good posture
- Avoiding repetitive hip movements that cause the pain
- Cushioning your joints (cushion chairs when sitting, and use extra hip support when sleeping)
If you suspect that you have signs or symptoms of hip bursitis, please see your doctor for evaluation and further discussion of treatment options.