Overview

Trochanteric bursitis is hip pain caused by inflammation of the fluid-filled sac, or bursa, on the outer edge of your hip.

You have about 160 bursae around your body. Bursae provide a cushion between bones and soft tissues. They prevent bones from rubbing against tendons and muscles. Bursitis can affect any of the bursae in your body.

Trochanteric bursitis affects the outer point of the thighbone, the femur, at the edge of the hip. This bony point is called the greater trochanter. Another bursa called the iliopsoas bursa is on the inside of the hip. Inflammation of the iliopsoas bursa causes pain in the groin.

Bursitis is the leading cause of hip pain.

Repetitive activities like climbing stairs or surgery to the hip can cause the bursa to become inflamed.

Many doctors now call trochanteric bursitis “greater trochanteric pain syndrome.”

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of trochanteric bursitis is pain in the outer part of the hip. You may feel soreness when you press on the outside of your hip or lie on that side. The pain will get worse with activities such as walking or climbing stairs. Pain can also spread, or radiate, down your thigh.

At first, the pain may be sharp. Eventually, it can fade into an ache.

You might also have swelling in the affected leg.

What are the causes?

Causes of trochanteric bursitis include:

  • injuries from a fall, a hard hit to your hipbone, or from lying on one side for a long time
  • overuse from repetitive activities such as running, bicycling, climbing stairs, or standing for long periods of time
  • hip surgery or prosthetic implants in the hips
  • a ripped tendon
  • spine problems such as scoliosis or arthritis of the lumbar spine
  • arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and gout
  • thyroid disease
  • bone spurs in the hip or thighbone
  • legs that are two different lengths

You’re more likely to get this condition as you age. It’s most common in middle-aged or elderly people. Women get trochanteric bursitis more often than men.

How is this treated?

Avoiding the activity that caused trochanteric bursitis will give your hip time to heal. You can also try one of these treatments to bring down inflammation and relieve pain:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Naprosyn) can help control inflammation and pain. Because NSAIDs can cause side effects like stomach pain and bleeding, use them for the shortest possible amount of time needed.
  • Steroid injections. Your doctor can give you injections of a corticosteroid medicine to bring down inflammation and control pain.
  • Physical therapy. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to maintain strength and flexibility in your hip. The therapist might also use other treatments, such as massage, ultrasound, ice, or heat.
  • Assistive devices. Use a cane or crutches to take weight off your hip while it heals.

Surgery

If pain relievers, physical therapy, or other noninvasive treatments don’t work for you, your doctor might recommend surgery to remove the bursa. This procedure can be done laparoscopically, through very small incisions using a camera to guide the surgeon. Recovery takes only a few days.

Preventing further injury

To prevent further injury to your hip while you heal:

  • Avoid falls. Wear rubber-soled shoes, keep your eyeglass or contact lens prescription up-to-date, and use a cane or walker if you have mobility issues.
  • Don’t overuse the hip. Avoid repetitive activities like jogging and excess stair climbing.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight. This can help relieve pressure on your joints.
  • Use shoe inserts. Get a shoe insert or foot orthotic to compensate for height differences in your legs.

Preventative exercises

Doing exercises to strengthen your thighs can help stabilize your hip joint and protect it from injury. Here are a few exercises you might try for trochanteric bursitis:

Hip bridges

  1. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent.
  2. Raise your hips until they line up with your shoulders and knees.
  3. Slowly lower your hips to the ground.
  4. Perform 5 sets of 20 repetitions.

Lying lateral leg raises

  1. Lie on your right side.
  2. Extend your right arm out for balance.
  3. Lift your left leg as far as you can, and then bring it down.
  4. Do 4 sets of 15 repetitions on each leg.

Lying leg circles

  1. Lie flat on your back with your legs extended.
  2. Raise your left leg about 3 inches off the ground and make small circles with it.
  3. Perform 3 sets of 5 rotations on each leg.

Are there any complications?

Complications of trochanteric bursitis can include:

  • continuing pain that interferes with your daily activities
  • loss of movement in your hip
  • disability

What’s the outlook?

Noninvasive treatments, such as exercise and physical therapy, relieve trochanteric bursitis in more than 90 percent of people who try them, according to a 2011 review. If these treatments don’t help you, surgery may correct the problem.