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Hip Bursitis

Information About a Common Cause of Hip Pain

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Updated May 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Hip bursitis is a common problem that causes pain over the outside of the upper thigh and hip joint. A bursa is a fluid filled sac that allows smooth motion between two surfaces. For example, in the hip, a bursa rests between the bony prominence over the outside of the hip (the greater trochanter) and the firm tendon that passed over this bone. When the bursa becomes inflamed, each time the tendon has to move over the bone, pain results. Because patients with hip bursitis move this tendon with each step, symptoms of this condition can be quite painful.

Causes of Hip Bursitis

Hip bursitis can be associated with different types of patients:
  • Athletes
    Hip bursitis is commonly seen in runners or athletes who participate in running-oriented sports (e.g. soccer, football, etc.).

  • Injuries
    Hip bursitis is sometimes associated with patients who fall onto their upper thigh, causing a so-called traumatic bursitis. The symptoms are similar to a hip pointer.

  • Post-surgical
    Patients who have had surgery, such as hip fracture surgery or hip replacement, may complain of pain over the outside of the hip. These symptoms are often due to irritation to the bursa causing hip bursitis.

Diagnosis of Hip Bursitis

The diagnosis of hip bursitis is made most reliably on physical examination. The most common symptoms of hip bursitis include:
  • Tenderness over the bony prominence of the upper/outer thigh

  • Swelling over the bursa
An x-ray is often obtained to ensure there are no bone spurs or calcifications that could be contributing to the problem. Occasionally, your doctor may obtain an MRI if the diagnosis is unclear or if the problem does not resolve with initial treatment.

What else can cause symptoms similar to hip bursitis?
As with any medical condition, other problems that can cause similar symptoms should be considered. Hip bursitis is usually a clear diagnosis, and the symptoms can be distinguished from other conditions. However, some cases of hip bursitis can be confused with other medical conditions. These include:

These are the most common causes of pain over the upper/outer thigh, other than hip bursitis. Other causes of pain in this area include hip joint problems, such as hip arthritis and labral tears, but these problems usually cause symptoms in areas other than the outside of the thigh.

Treatment of Hip Bursitis

Treatment of hip bursitis usually begin with some simple steps, and progresses depending on the individual's response to these treatments. Most people can find relief from their symptoms with noninvasive treatments for hip bursitis. However, some people have challenges curing their symptoms of hip bursitis, and may require more invasive treatments.
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