Common Cause of Pain With Hip Bursitis

Greater trochanteric pain syndrome, a condition that used to be called hip bursitis, is a common problem that causes pain over the outside of the upper thigh and hip joint. There are many risk factors, including osteoarthritis and injuries. Treatments can include exercises and medication.

Causes of hip bursitis pain

Verywell / Laura Porter

Causes

Tendon or muscle compression can cause the pain of greater trochanteric pain syndrome. Muscles and tendons can become weakened or injured, which makes them prone to painful impingement.

Some people are especially prone to the condition, including people who have knee or hip osteoarthritis, women, athletes, and people who are overweight or obese.

Athletes

Greater trochanteric pain syndrome is commonly seen in runners or athletes who participate in running-oriented sports (e.g. soccer, football, etc.).

Injuries

Greater trochanteric pain syndrome is sometimes associated with a fall onto the upper thigh that causes traumatic bursitis.

Post-surgical

After surgery, such as hip fracture surgery or hip replacement, some people may complain of pain over the outside of the hip.

Symptoms

The condition causes pain with hip movement, especially with adduction, which is the movement of the hip towards the body, rather than away from the body.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Tenderness over the bony prominence of the upper/outer thigh
  • Swelling over the bursa
  • Difficulty sleeping on the affected side

Most people find there are specific activities that aggravate their symptoms. These may be sports or exercise-related activities.

In addition, many people complain of difficulty sleeping on the affected side at night. And it's not uncommon to have bilateral (on both sides) greater trochanteric pain syndrome, which can make it hard to sleep without discomfort.

Diagnosis 

The diagnosis is made with a physical examination. The diagnosis overlaps with iliotibial band tendonitis/iliotibial band syndrome and is often not a separately identifiable entity.

An X-ray is often obtained to determine whether there are bone spurs or calcifications that could be contributing to the problem. Your healthcare provider may obtain an MRI if the diagnosis is unclear or if the problem does not resolve with initial treatment.

Some other conditions that may be considered during the diagnostic evaluation include:

Other causes of pain in this area include hip joint problems, such as hip arthritis and labral tears— these problems usually also cause symptoms in areas other than the outside of the thigh.

Treatment

Treatment usually begins with some simple steps and progresses, depending on the individual's response to these treatments. Most people can find relief from their symptoms with non-invasive treatments.

The usual course of treatment begins with avoidance of activities that cause increased symptoms. Sometimes this allows the condition to resolve.

Other simple steps include ice application to the hip, anti-inflammatory medications, and a home stretching program. Many times working with a physical therapist can help with an exercise and stretching program, and help prevent the problem from becoming recurrent.

A cortisone shot is also a frequent treatment for hip bursitis. It might only provide temporary relief, but if it's combined with other treatments, like a stretching program, the cortisone injection may lead to more lasting relief.

A Word From Verywell

Living with hip and leg pain can limit your activities and prevent you from doing things you want to do. Many people fall into a habit of avoiding activities that exacerbate pain—without going in for a medical evaluation and treatment. But severely cutting back on physical activity leads to many complications—obesity, worsening pain, and the risk of cardiovascular disease. If you are experiencing pain, it's important for you to know that your healthcare providers can work with you to find the cause and design a treatment plan that will help get you back to a healthy level of physical activity.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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