What is iliopsoas bursitis?

Iliopsoas bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa located beneath the iliopsoas muscle. This muscle is located in front of the hip. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac between bones, muscles, tendons, and skin. It provides cushion between tissue to decrease friction and irritation.

Iliopsoas bursitis can make it difficult to walk and exercise. If you develop severe symptoms, you may experience loss of mobility.

Pain is a primary symptom of iliopsoas bursitis. You may experience pain that starts around the front of your hips. The pain may also radiate down your thighs to the knees. Some people also have pain in their buttocks. They may experience stiffness and tightness in the mornings.

Initially, you may notice mild discomfort while doing certain activities, such as:

  • walking up a flight of stairs
  • exercising
  • extending your leg
  • rising from a seated position

The condition can progress and cause more pain over a period of months or weeks. Pain and weakness may also cause limping.

There’s a risk of iliopsoas bursitis if you perform repetitive motions. This injury is sometimes due to overuse of the joints, tendons, and muscles. It can develop in athletes or anyone who’s physically active, such as runners and swimmers.

People with tight hip flexor muscles can also develop iliopsoas bursitis due to increased pressure. This pressure creates friction between the tendons and the bursa.

Arthritic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can also play a role in iliopsoas bursitis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks joints. This attack triggers joint inflammation. Osteoarthritis is a chronic arthritis condition. This form of arthritis causes degeneration of joint cartilage. Degeneration causes bones to rub together and promotes inflammation.

If you experience pain around the hips that radiates down your leg, see a doctor.

Your doctor may ask about your symptoms. Be specific and explain how long you’ve felt the discomfort. To diagnose iliopsoas bursitis, your doctor may complete a physical examination that includes putting stress on your bursa.

Bursitis can mimic other medical conditions, such as tendonitis, so your doctor can’t diagnose the condition through a physical exam alone. Your doctor may perform imaging tests to rule out other conditions and confirm a diagnosis.

Imaging tests capture detailed images of the inside of your body and allow doctors to identify abnormalities with the hip joint. These tests include:

  • X-ray
  • MRI, which uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create images
  • hip ultrasound, which uses high-frequency sound waves to look inside the body
  • bone scan, a nuclear medicine procedure to identify changes in bones

Don’t ignore symptoms of iliopsoas bursitis. If left untreated, the pain can become worse. Additionally, the iliopsoas bursa may rupture and become infected. Infections are rare, but signs include:

  • fever or chills
  • joint pain
  • red, warm skin
  • feeling sick

Treatment for iliopsoas bursitis depends on the cause and severity. If you have mild bursitis, rest your joints and use home remedies to relieve pain. For example, apply ice to painful joints to stop inflammation.

Also, modify your activities or exercise routine to avoid irritating the bursitis. Using a walking cane can also ease pressure and relieve pain. Other therapies include:

  • over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin
  • a corticosteroid injection into the bursa to relieve inflammation
  • physical therapy to strengthen and stretch hip flexors and muscles

Your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic if you have signs of an infection.

Modifying activities and taking an over-the-counter or prescription medication can help relieve pain and inflammation associated with iliopsoas bursitis. To prevent further problems, avoid any activities that put repetitive stress on your hips.