Trochanteric Bursitis Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

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 among older people and active people. It's very treatable, and most people can get back to their activities.

Trochanteric bursitis is also called greater trochanteric pain syndrome (GTPS).

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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 hurts. Lying on the hip will cause pain, as will pressure on the area. Trochanteric bursitis of the hips symptoms make transitioning from sitting to standing, or climbing stairs, challenging.

Trochanteric bursitis affects about 15% of women and 8% of men. It most commonly happens in middle-aged women. However, female athletes of all ages can have this type of bursitis.

What Causes Trochanteric Bursitis?

You can get trochanteric bursitis if you fall on your hip, have bad posture, or have had a previous hip injury or surgery. If you run or bike, continued friction and rapid movement in the hip joint can also cause the condition. Women and middle-aged or elderly people get the condition more often.

Another cause of trochanteric bursitis is a tight iliotibial band (IT band). This is a thick band of tissue on the outside of your leg. It starts at your hip and runs down to your knee.

When the IT band is tight, it can rub against the trochanteric bursa. That causes inflammation and pain.

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

What Are the Risk Factors and Complications of Trochanteric Bursitis?

Being female, being older, and being active are the three biggest risk factors. 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 injury: Doing the same activity over and over, like running or cycling, can cause repetitive stress. This stress can lead to inflammation of the bursa.
  • Spinal conditions: Conditions like scoliosis or other spinal alignment problems can affect how you walk. This can affect your hip joint and cause bursitis.
  • Unequal leg lengths: If one leg is shorter than the other, it affects gait and posture. This can cause irritation of the hip bursa.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): An inflammatory condition, RA can cause the bursa to become inflamed.

The pain from this type of hip bursitis can spread to your upper leg. Eventually, the hip joint itself can feel tender to the touch. The biggest complication is the pain it causes and the effect that can have on your daily activities.

The good news is that this hip bursitis is treatable. There are many things you can do at home.

In fact, the condition will usually resolve itself with home treatment. Severe cases require a steroid injection into the bursa.

Can You Prevent Trochanteric Bursitis?

You may find you can't prevent trochanteric bursitis. You can't control factors like age and gender, among others.

You can control the amount and types of exercise you do. However, avoiding exercise is a poor way to prevent a condition. But there are a few preventive things you can try.

  • Try to maintain a healthy weight. Being at a healthy weight helps to take pressure off your joints.
  • Avoid overuse injuries. If you play a sport, you may find it hard to curtail how often you do it. But try to add in cross-training one or two days a week. For example, instead of running five days a week, replace a run with swimming laps or yoga.
  • Keep the hips strong and flexible. Regular stretching (especially stretching the IT band) can help. Core strength classes, like yoga and Pilates, can also help, as can resistance training.

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.

If you've been struggling with hip pain you suspect is bursitis for two weeks, see a sports medicine specialist for an evaluation.

How Do You Diagnose Trochanteric Bursitis?

A visit to a medical professional can diagnose the bursa inflammation that causes trochanteric bursitis without additional testing. A physical exam combined with a history is usually enough.

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

However, your doctor may order tests just to make sure there isn't an underlying bone issue. These diagnostic tests can include:

  • X-ray
  • Bone scan

Though many patients don't need any further diagnostic tests, your doctor may suggest an MRI. This is an advanced imaging test that shows the bursa and soft tissue.

Trochanteric Bursitis Treatment

The goal of treatment is to manage your symptoms and get you back to doing activities you love, pain-free.

Treatment for trochanteric bursitis pain includes:

  • Ice.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Exercises, physical therapy, and stretches.
  • A steroid injection.

You will likely need to take a break from the activity that caused your trochanteric bursitis.

Surgery to remove the bursa may prove necessary if the above treatments fail to alleviate symptoms.

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