What you need to know about hip bursitis

The bursa is a small sac that contains lubrication fluid located at different joints in the body. The sacs are vital in the elbow, knee, shoulder, hip and heel joints. These function as shock absorbers and cushions between the bones and surrounding soft tissues. Once a sac is irritated or inflamed, it is a condition called as bursitis.

There are 2 main bursae present in the hip joint – external tip of the hip and in the buttocks area. Hip bursitis causes hip pain but it is likely to occur among middle-aged and elderly  instead of the younger ones. Additionally, women are more prone than men.

How hip bursitis occurs

Hip bursitis often involves the excessive irritation of the bursa that is present under the iliotibial band or the muscle that flexes the hip. Due to friction, the pain manifests in the front part of the hip. In case the exterior hip pain does not respond to treatment, the pain might be originating from another site such as the lower part of the spine.

Always bear in mind that hip bursitis occurs when one or more bursa sacs are irritated and swell due to overuse, trauma, poor posture, hip bone spurs, leg length differences and arthritis.

Who is at risk?

Individuals who engage in distance running seem to face a higher risk for hip bursitis than other physical activity. Take note that hip bursitis is less common in other sports, but it does occur especially in contact sports such as hockey or football in which players sustain blows to the hips that can eventually lead to hip bursitis.

What are the symptoms?

hip bursitis

Individuals who engage in distance running seem to face a higher risk for hip bursitis than other physical activity.

  • Pain at the outer point of the hip that can radiate down to the exterior of the thigh muscles
  • Hip pain that worsens at night when lying on the side of the affected hip or getting up from a chair
  • Early stage hip pain that is intense and sharp which is followed by the late stage of pain that is felt over a wider area
  • Affected area is tender to touch
  • Pain is intensified when walking long distances, squatting or climbing stairs


The initial first aid measure is to apply an ice pack on the affected area for 15-20 minutes at 3-4 times in a day. Instruct the individual to avoid or limit any activity that can trigger the pain for 2-3 days.

You can provide over-the-counter medications such as naproxen, aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen to help relieve the pain and minimize the inflammation. If the individual is having difficulty walking, the doctor recommends using crutches.

Preventive measures

If the individual engages in physical activities or sports, it is important to wear athletic shoes that can provide adequate cushioning in the soles as well as side-to-side support. Even using protective padding can help prevent hip injuries that can lead to bursitis.


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