Hip Bursitis

Hip bursitis is a common cause of hip pain, often resulting in discomfort and reduced mobility. This condition involves the inflammation of bursae around the hip joint. Understanding the anatomy of these bursae, their respective causes of inflammation, the natural history of the condition, and the available treatment options—especially interventional modalities—can help in managing and alleviating hip pain effectively.

Anatomy of Hip Bursae

The hip contains several bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that reduce friction and cushion pressure points between bones, tendons, and muscles. The major bursae in the hip include:

  1. Trochanteric Bursa: Located over the greater trochanter of the femur, this bursa is the most commonly inflamed in hip bursitis.
  2. Iliopsoas Bursa: Found near the front of the hip joint, under the iliopsoas muscle.
  3. Ischial Bursa: Situated between the ischial tuberosity and the gluteus maximus.

Causes of Hip Bursitis

Each bursa can become inflamed due to various reasons, leading to specific types of hip bursitis:

  1. Trochanteric Bursitis: Often caused by repetitive friction from the iliotibial band (IT band), direct trauma, or overuse. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and gout can also contribute.
  2. Iliopsoas Bursitis: Typically results from repetitive hip flexion activities such as running or cycling, leading to irritation.
  3. Ischial Bursitis: Commonly caused by prolonged sitting on hard surfaces, direct trauma, or activities involving repetitive hip extension like cycling.

Natural History of Hip Bursitis

Hip bursitis generally begins with mild discomfort that can progress to more intense pain if not addressed. Symptoms include localized pain, tenderness, and sometimes swelling over the affected bursa. Pain may worsen with activities such as walking, running, or climbing stairs, and may improve with rest.

Differential Diagnosis

The symptoms of hip bursitis can resemble other conditions, making differential diagnosis essential:

  1. Hip Osteoarthritis: Characterized by joint pain and stiffness, typically worsened by weight-bearing activities.
  2. Lumbar Radiculopathy: Pain radiating from the lower back to the hip, often accompanied by neurological symptoms like tingling or numbness.
  3. Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI): Hip pain caused by abnormal contact between the femur and acetabulum, particularly during hip flexion.
  4. Tendinitis: Inflammation of tendons around the hip, such as the iliotibial band or gluteal tendons, presenting with localized pain and tenderness.

Work-Up and Diagnosis

A thorough diagnostic work-up includes:

  1. Clinical Examination: Assessing pain patterns, tenderness, and range of motion.
  2. Imaging Studies:
    • X-rays: To rule out bone abnormalities like fractures or osteoarthritis.
    • Ultrasound: To visualize bursal inflammation and fluid accumulation.
    • MRI: Provides detailed images of soft tissue structures, confirming bursitis and identifying any associated conditions.
  3. Diagnostic Injections: Injecting a local anesthetic into the suspected bursa can confirm the diagnosis if pain relief is achieved.

Treatment Options

Conservative treatments are typically the first line of management, including rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. However, for persistent or severe cases, interventional treatments may be necessary.

Interventional Treatment Modalities

  1. Corticosteroid Injections: Injecting corticosteroids directly into the inflamed bursa can significantly reduce inflammation and pain. This is often done under ultrasound guidance to ensure accurate placement.
  2. Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections: PRP therapy involves injecting concentrated platelets from the patient’s blood into the bursa to promote healing and reduce inflammation. This treatment is gaining popularity due to its regenerative potential.
  3. Bursal Aspiration: Removing excess fluid from the bursa can relieve pressure and pain. This procedure is usually combined with corticosteroid injections.
  4. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT): This non-invasive treatment uses shock waves to promote healing and reduce inflammation in the affected bursa.
  5. Surgical Intervention: In rare, refractory cases, surgical removal of the bursa (bursectomy) may be necessary. This is typically considered only after other treatments have failed.


Hip bursitis, characterized by inflammation of one of the hip’s bursae, can cause significant pain and impact daily activities. Accurate diagnosis through clinical evaluation and imaging is essential to distinguish it from other hip conditions. While conservative treatments are often effective, interventional modalities like corticosteroid injections, PRP therapy, and ESWT offer promising solutions for those with persistent symptoms. By addressing the specific cause and employing targeted treatments, healthcare providers can help patients achieve relief and regain their quality of life.


  1. McGarry T, Daruwalla J. “The pathogenesis, diagnosis and management of subgluteus maximus bursitis.” British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2011.
  2. Baker CL Jr, Massie R, Hurt WG. “Treatment of trochanteric bursitis: a prospective randomized clinical study.” American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2011.
  3. Shbeeb MI, Matteson EL. “Trochanteric bursitis (Greater trochanteric pain syndrome).” Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 1996.
  4. Cardinal E, Chhem RK, Beauregard CG, Aubin B, Lepanto L. “Bursitis: a study of radiographic and clinical findings.” Radiology. 1994.
  5. Fredberg U, Stengaard-Pedersen K. “Chronic tendinopathy tissue pathology, pain mechanisms, and etiology with a special focus on inflammation.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2008.

These references provide further insights into the causes, diagnosis, and advanced treatment modalities for hip bursitis.

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