Bursae, are small, jelly-like sacs that are located throughout the body, including around the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, and heel. They contain a small amount of fluid, and are positioned between bones and soft tissues, acting as cushions to help reduce friction.
Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa. There are two major bursae in the hip that typically become irritated and inflamed. One bursa covers the bony point of the hip bone called the greater trochanter. Inflammation of this bursa is called tronchanteric bursitis.
Another bursa — the iliopsoas bursa — is located on the inside (groin side) of the hip. When this bursa becomes inflamed, the condition is also sometimes referred to as hip bursitis, but the pain is located in the groin area. This condition is not as common as trochanteric bursitis, but is treated in a similar manner.
The main symptom of trochanteric bursitis is pain at the point of the hip. The pain usually extends to the outside of the thigh area. In the early stages, the pain is usually described as sharp and intense. Later, the pain may become more of an ache and spread across a larger area of the hip.
Typically, the pain is worse at night, when lying on the affected hip, and when getting up from a chair after being seated for a while. It also may get worse with prolonged walking, stair climbing, or squatting.
Hip bursitis can affect anyone, but is more common in women and middle-aged or elderly people. It is less common in younger people and in men.
The following risk factors have been associated with the development of hip bursitis.
To diagnose hip bursitis, the doctor will perform a comprehensive physical examination, looking for tenderness in the area of the point of the hip. He or she may also perform additional tests to rule out other possible injuries or conditions. These tests can include imaging studies, such as x-rays, bone scanning, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The initial treatment for hip bursitis does not involve surgery. Many people with hip bursitis can experience relief with simple lifestyle changes, including:
Surgery is rarely needed for hip bursitis. If the bursa remains inflamed and painful after all nonsurgical treatments have been tried, your doctor may recommend surgical removal of the bursa. Removal of the bursa does not hurt the hip, and the hip can function normally without it.
A newer technique that is gaining popularity is arthroscopic removal of the bursa. In this technique, the bursa is removed through a small (1/4-inch) incision over the hip. A small camera, or arthroscope, is placed in a second incision so the doctor can guide miniature surgical instruments and cut out the bursa. This surgery is less invasive, and recovery is quicker and less painful.
Both types of surgeries are done on an outpatient (same-day) basis, so an overnight stay in the hospital is not usually necessary. Early studies show arthroscopic removal of the bursa to be quite effective, but this is still being studied.
Following surgery, a short rehabilitation period can be expected. Most patients find that using a cane or crutches for a couple of days is helpful. It is reasonable to be up and walking around the evening after surgery. The soreness from surgery usually goes away after a few days.
Although hip bursitis cannot always be prevented, there are things you can do to prevent the inflammation from getting worse.