What is Hip Bursitis?

When an individual is unable to walk due to a sore hip and/or leg pain, it drastically reduces their ability to perform even the most basic functions of their daily activities.  In this post, we will discuss the medical condition “trochanteric bursitis”, also known as hip bursitis.  We will review some of the causes and symptoms of this medical condition and most importantly, how to effectively treat this condition in order to get patients back on their feet and actively engage in their daily activities again.

Anatomy of the Hip Area

Our hip bones are attached to the top of our thigh bone, or femur.  Together these two bones make up a ball and socket joint, in this case, the hip joint.  The ball at the top of the femur fits within the socket of the hip and is held there through a series of muscles and tendons.  A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac designed to provide smooth movement, typically between bone and muscle.  The trochanteric bursa is located on the exterior of the hip, between the gluteal muscles in the buttock region and the greater trochanter, a large knobby prominence slightly to the rear and on top on the femur bone.  When the trochanteric bursa becomes inflamed, it is referred to as trochanteric bursitis.


People who have trochanteric bursitis will typically experience pain on the outer part of the hip.  They may also have outer leg pain that radiates down from the hip area.  Side sleepers will notice an increase in their pain level if they try to sleep on the affected hip.  Even basic movements like climbing stairs and getting in or out of a vehicle can become painful.  If left untreated, patients can reach a point where it is painful to walk even short distances.


In some cases, an individual can experience trochanteric bursitis through a direct impact to the bursa by way of a fall squarely on the hip, or another traumatic injury.  Additionally, the condition is often found in runners, due to the repetitive friction of tendons rubbing over the hip bursa, eventually leading to inflammation, swelling and pain.  Bicyclists are also prone to this type of injury, as well as middle-aged individuals, even if their only form of exercise is walking.

Initial Treatment

When an individual receives a diagnosis of trochanteric bursitis from their physician, they will most likely be prescribed plenty of rest.  NSAIDs can help relieve pain and inflammation, as well as ice packs applied to the hip area for 10 minutes every hour.  As pain is relieved, the ice packs can be reduced to 3 or 4 times daily.  If the pain is severe, the physician may recommend a steroid shot near the area to reduce pain and inflammation as well.

Trochanteric Bursitis Challenges

In some patients, merely getting enough rest to provide healing and gradually easing their way back into their exercise program may be enough.  Others may find they continue to struggle with the condition and cannot seem to get back to their former activity level.  It is this latter group that can often benefit from a series of physical therapy treatments.  A qualified professional therapist can evaluate an individual to determine if muscle imbalances are contributing to the problem and/or whether the issue is exacerbated by a mechanical issue in one or both feet.

Depending upon the factors contributing to the condition, a physical therapist might recommend shoe inserts designed to correct issues.  They can also provide the patient with a series of stretches and exercises designed to support and strengthen nearby muscles.  They can also recommend proper supportive footwear for the patient and provide insight on how the patient can gradually ease back into their former activity level.

If you or someone you know is dealing with a stubborn case of hip bursitis, we can help.  Please contact our office at 570-208-2787 or email Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation at: cawleyptfrank@gmail.com.

Written by Dr. Jesse Yurko DPT.

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