Bursae are closed, fluid-filled sacs that act as gliding surfaces between skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and other tissues. More than 150 of these friction-reducing “cushions” are located throughout your body, including near and around your joints.
Major bursae are situated next to the tendons in your large joints (shoulders, elbows, knees, and hips). When the bursae of any joint become irritated and inflamed — a common condition known as bursitis — it can trigger persistent pain, swelling, and limited range of motion.
As a leading hip joint ailment, hip bursitis is a frequent cause of chronic hip pain. Here, our expert orthopedists at Sports Medicine Oregon discuss six routine causes of hip bursitis, and explain why timely treatment is important.
What does hip bursitis feel like?
Most cases of hip bursitis occur when the large bursa that’s situated over the bony knob near the top of the thigh bone (femur) becomes inflamed. Because this area of the femur is named the greater trochanter, hip bursitis is also referred to as trochanteric bursitis.
Hip bursitis may begin as mild pain and tenderness at the outward curve of your upper thigh, or it may emerge as sharp, limiting joint pain accompanied by warmth and visible swelling around the affected area. It may also become dull and achy over time.
Most people with hip bursitis notice that their symptoms become more intense when they sit for a long time or lie on the affected side. Climbing the stairs or getting up from a deep chair can also make hip bursitis pain flare.
Why did I develop hip bursitis?
Hip bursitis may be short-lived (acute), flaring for several hours or a couple of days before it subsides, or long-lasting (chronic) if it persists for a few days to several weeks. Chronic hip bursitis can subside and recur, while acute bursitis can become chronic if the affected bursa is reaggravated by a hip injury.
Whether it’s acute or chronic, most cases of hip bursitis are caused by one of the following:
1. Overuse injury
As with shoulder and elbow bursitis, repetitive use and stress that puts pressure on the bursa — also known as an overuse injury — is the primary cause of hip bursitis. When your hip bursa sustains repetitive “mini traumas,” the accumulative effects can cause the same kind of inflammation, pain, and limitation as a single, more severe traumatic injury.
Overuse-related hip bursitis may be brought on by running, stair climbing, cycling, standing for long stretches, or any other activity that repeatedly stresses the hip joint and its supporting tissues.
2. Traumatic injury
Any traumatic injury to the point of your hip (where the bursa is located) can trigger bursitis. This includes falling onto the outside of your hip, banging your hip into a hard surface, or even lying on your side for an extended period.
This kind of direct trauma to the bursa can inflame its lining and cause its sac to fill with blood. Even after your body eventually reabsorbs the blood, the inflammation — and pain symptoms — may remain.
3. Excess body weight
Being significantly overweight can be a direct underlying cause or a significant contributing factor in the development of hip bursitis. Excess body weight may affect the bursa by straining the hip joint itself, altering the biomechanics of your gait, or both.
4. Improper biomechanics
Any spinal abnormality or physical condition that affects the biomechanics or alignment of your hips can also trigger hip bursitis. This includes disorders that influence your posture or the way you walk, scoliosis, and arthritis of the lower (lumbar) spine.
Leg-length inequality, or having one leg that’s shorter than the other, is another condition that can alter hip biomechanics and inflame the bursa on one side.
5. History of inflammation
If you’ve ever had bursitis in the past — even if it affected another joint — your body is more vulnerable to developing it in the future. It may emerge in the same place, or it may appear in a different joint.
Similarly, hip bursitis — or bursitis in any joint — is more likely to occur if you’re living with another joint-affecting inflammatory condition like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, thyroid disease, or psoriasis.
6. Previous hip surgery
Having surgery around your hip or a prosthetic hip implant (hip replacement surgery) can irritate the bursa and trigger hip bursitis, especially in the acute healing phase. In some cases, however, acute hip bursitis following hip surgery returns and becomes a chronic problem.
You don’t have to live with hip pain
Left untreated, an inflamed bursa may thicken and cause worsening swelling and pain or even disability. Luckily, hip bursitis can often be resolved with the right treatment approach — and kept at bay with careful preventive measures.
If you’re ready to put an end to hip pain, our skilled orthopedic team can help. Call your nearest Sports Medicine Oregon office in Tigard or Wilsonville, Oregon, today, or book an appointment online any time.