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Trochanteric Bursitis

Trochanteric bursitis affects the outside part of your hip, causing pain. The pain can start out as sharp and intense but may settle into a dull ache.

This type of hip bursitis can affect anyone, but it tends to happen to older and active people more often. It's very treatable, and most people can get back to the activities they enjoy.

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What Is Trochanteric Bursitis?

Doctors define trochanteric bursitis as an inflammation in the sac of fluid (bursa) that surrounds the outside bone, or trochanter, of your hip. The lower outside part of your hip will hurt, and moving will hurt, too. Lying on the hip will also cause pain, as will pressure on the area.

Also called greater trochanteric pain syndrome (GTPS), trochanteric bursitis of the hips symptoms make transitioning from sitting to standing, or climbing stairs, challenging.

How common is trochanteric bursitis?

Trochanteric bursitis affects about 15% of women and 8% of men. It's most common in middle-aged women, but female athletes of all ages can have this type of bursitis. Older adults also get trochanteric bursitis more often.

What Causes Trochanteric Bursitis?

Common causes of trochanteric bursitis include:

  • A fall on your hip.
  • Bad posture.
  • Previous hip injury or surgery.
  • Continued friction and rapid movement in the hip joint from running and biking.

You can also get trochanteric bursitis if you have a tight iliotibial band (IT band). This thick band of tissue on the outside of your leg starts at your hip and runs down to your knee. When your IT band is tight, it can rub against the trochanteric bursa and cause inflammation and pain.

Female athletes, especially runners, tend to have tight IT bands. This is 1 reason why this group is at a higher risk for hip bursitis.

What are trochanteric bursitis risk factors and complications?

Trochanteric bursitis risk factors 

Being female, older, and active are the 3 biggest risk factors for trochanteric bursitis. A hip injury from a fall or accident also puts you at risk for this type of hip bursitis.

Other risk factors for trochanteric bursitis include:

  • Overuse. Doing the same activity over and over can cause repetitive stress. This stress can lead to inflammation of the bursa.
  • Spinal issues. Scoliosis and other spinal alignment problems can affect how you walk. This can affect your hip joint and cause bursitis.
  • Unequal leg lengths. If 1 leg is shorter than the other, it affects your gait and posture. This can irritate the hip bursa.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). An inflammatory health issue, RA can inflame the bursa.

Complications of trochanteric bursitis

In time, the pain from trochanteric bursitis can spread to your upper leg, and the hip joint can feel tender to the touch. This pain can impact your daily activities.

How can I prevent trochanteric bursitis?

You may find that you can't prevent trochanteric bursitis. You can't control factors like your age and gender, for instance.

You can control the amount and types of exercise you do. But avoiding exercise is a poor way to prevent a health issue.

A few things you can try to prevent trochanteric bursitis include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being at a healthy weight helps take pressure off your joints.
  • Avoid overuse injuries. If you do 1 sport regularly, add in cross-training 1 or 2 days a week. For instance, instead of running 5 days a week, replace a run with swimming laps or yoga.
  • Keep your hips strong and flexible. Stretch regularly (especially your IT band) and consider core strength classes, like yoga and Pilates, or resistance training.

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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Trochanteric Bursitis?

Symptoms of trochanteric bursitis include:

  • Pain in the hip when moving the joint.
  • Pain when you lie on the affected side of the body.
  • Tenderness in the hip.
  • Limping.
  • Soreness or swelling in the hip.

The pain may spread down your leg toward the knee.

When should I see a doctor about my trochanteric bursitis symptoms?

If you've struggled with hip pain you suspect is bursitis for 2 weeks, see a sports medicine specialist.

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How Do You Diagnose Trochanteric Bursitis?

A sports medicine doctor can diagnose the bursa inflammation that causes trochanteric bursitis without more testing.

What to expect during your visit

Your doctors often only has to do a physical exam and ask about your health history to diagnose trochanteric bursitis.

As part of the exam, your doctor may ask you to do a series of range-of-motion activities to see how severe your bursitis is. This can also rule out other problems, like a fracture.

Your doctor may also order tests to make sure there isn't an underlying bone issue. These diagnostic tests may include:

Your doctor may also suggest an MRI. This advanced imaging test shows the bursa and soft tissue.

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How Do You Treat Trochanteric Bursitis?

The good news is that trochanteric bursitis is treatable. The goal of trochanteric bursitis treatment is to manage your symptoms and get you back to doing activities you love, pain-free.

Home treatments for trochanteric bursitis

Trochanteric bursitis will often resolve itself with home treatment. Some of the things you can do at home to treat this type of bursitis include:

  • Ice.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Exercises and stretches.

Lifestyle changes for trochanteric bursitis

You'll likely need to take a break from the activity that caused your trochanteric bursitis. Your doctor may also suggest physical therapy.

Medicine to treat trochanteric bursitis

Severe cases of trochanteric bursitis may require a steroid injection into the bursa.

Surgery for trochanteric bursitis

You may need surgery to remove the bursa if the above treatments fail to ease your symptoms.

However, surgery is rare for trochanteric bursitis. It's only for people who don't respond to any other treatment and have chronic pain they can't manage. It's usually an outpatient, arthroscopic procedure (meaning the surgeon only make a small incision).

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