Hip bursitis is a condition characterised by inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions between bones, tendons, joints, and muscles. When these sacs become inflamed, it can lead to discomfort and pain in the affected area. This condition, which affects the hip—one of the body’s largest joints—is referred to as hip bursitis.

The condition is prevalent among athletes and older adults but can occur due to various factors. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for hip bursitis is essential for managing the condition effectively and preventing its recurrence. 

What Are the Causes of Hip Bursitis?

Hip bursitis can arise from several factors, either in isolation or combination, contributing to the inflammation of the bursae around the hip joint. The primary factors include:

  • Repetitive Stress or Overuse: Activities that involve repetitive movements or prolonged pressure on the hip joint, such as running, bicycling, or standing for extended periods, can lead to overuse of the hip bursae. Athletes, particularly runners and cyclists, are at higher risk of developing hip bursitis due to the repetitive stress placed on the hips.
  • Direct Trauma or Injury: A direct blow to the hip, such as falling onto the side, can cause immediate swelling and inflammation of the bursae. This type of trauma is a common cause of acute bursitis.
  • Pre-existing Medical Conditions: Certain systemic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or diabetes, can predispose people to developing bursitis. These conditions can cause inflammation in various parts of the body, including the bursae.
  • Hip Surgery or Prosthetic Implants: Surgery around the hip area or the presence of prosthetic implants can alter the natural mechanics of the hip joint, potentially leading to bursitis.
  • Leg-Length Inequality: A difference in leg length can alter gait and put additional pressure on one hip, leading to imbalance and increased risk of bursitis in the overburdened hip.
  • Age and Lifestyle Factors: The risk of developing hip bursitis increases with age, as wear and tear on the joints become more significant over time. Additionally, people leading a sedentary lifestyle or those with obesity are at higher risk due to the increased pressure on the hip joints.

Identifying the underlying cause of hip bursitis is a critical step in determining the most effective treatment plan and preventing future episodes of the condition.

What Are the Symptoms of Hip Bursitis?

The manifestation of hip bursitis symptoms can vary from mild discomfort to severe pain, potentially impacting mobility and quality of life. Recognising these symptoms early is essential for timely intervention. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain at the Point of the Hip: The most common symptom is pain on the outside of the hip, which may extend to the outer thigh. Initially, the pain might be sharp and intense, becoming more of an ache as the condition progresses.
  • Worsening Pain with Activity: Activities such as walking, climbing stairs, or jogging can exacerbate the pain. The discomfort may also increase when transitioning from a seated to a standing position.
  • Tenderness to Touch: The area over the inflamed bursa may be particularly sensitive to touch or pressure, making lying on the affected side difficult.
  • Swelling and Redness: In some cases, visible swelling and redness over the affected hip can occur, though this is less common.
  • Stiffness: The hip joint may feel stiff, especially after periods of rest or inactivity, contributing to a reduced range of motion.

The intensity and presence of these symptoms can vary based on the severity of the inflammation and the specific bursae affected. 

Diagnosis of Hip Bursitis

Diagnosing hip bursitis involves a comprehensive approach that includes a medical history review, physical examination, and, if necessary, imaging tests. This process helps differentiate hip bursitis from other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as hip osteoarthritis or lower back issues. The key steps in diagnosing hip bursitis are:

  • Medical History: The orthopaedic specialist will inquire about the onset, duration, and nature of the symptoms. Information on recent activities, injuries, or pre-existing health conditions can offer crucial insights into potential causes.
  • Physical Examination: During the physical exam, the orthopaedic specialist will assess the hip’s range of motion and look for signs of pain, tenderness, or swelling around the hip joint and bursae. Specific movements that exacerbate the pain can help pinpoint the affected bursa.
  • Imaging Tests: While not always necessary, imaging tests can confirm the diagnosis and rule out other causes of hip pain. X-rays can help identify bone abnormalities, but they cannot visualise bursae. An ultrasound or MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is more effective in showing inflamed bursae and surrounding tissues.
  • Laboratory Tests: In cases where an infection is suspected within the bursa (septic bursitis), the orthopaedic specialist may order blood tests or aspirate fluid from the bursa for laboratory analysis to identify any bacteria.

Through these diagnostic steps, orthopaedic specialists can confirm the presence of hip bursitis, assess its severity, and develop a tailored treatment plan to address the condition.

Treatment Options for Hip Bursitis

The treatment of hip bursitis aims to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and prevent recurrence. Treatment plans are tailored to the person’s symptoms and the underlying cause of the condition. The following are the primary treatment strategies:

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Limiting activities that exacerbate hip pain is crucial in the early stages of treatment. Engaging in low-impact activities can help avoid further irritation of the bursa.
  • Ice Therapy: Applying ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce pain and inflammation. In some cases, a corticosteroid injection directly into the bursa may be recommended to provide rapid relief of symptoms.
  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can design a program to strengthen the muscles around the hip and improve flexibility, which can help reduce the stress on the bursae. Specific exercises can also improve hip alignment and function.
  • Assistive Devices: For people experiencing significant pain, using a cane or crutches to reduce the weight and pressure on the hip can be beneficial during the recovery period.
  • Surgery: In rare cases where conservative treatments do not relieve symptoms, surgical intervention to remove the inflamed bursa may be considered. Surgery is typically reserved for persistent or recurrent bursitis that does not respond to other treatments.

Preventive measures and timely treatment are key to managing hip bursitis effectively. Most people experience significant improvement with conservative treatments, regaining full function and returning to their normal activities without lasting discomfort.

How to Prevent Hip Bursitis?

Preventing hip bursitis involves taking steps to reduce the risk factors associated with the condition. While not all cases can be prevented, especially those related to underlying health conditions, adopting certain lifestyle and activity modifications can help minimise the risk. Key preventive measures include:

  • Gradual Increase in Activity Levels: Avoid sudden increases in physical activities or exercises that put excessive strain on the hips. Gradually building up intensity and duration can help the body adapt without causing undue stress on the bursae.
  • Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Excess weight can increase the pressure on the hips and other joints, leading to a higher risk of bursitis. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can reduce this risk.
  • Proper Posture and Ergonomics: Adopting correct posture and ergonomics during daily activities and work can help distribute body weight evenly, reducing stress on the hips. Ergonomic workplace setups and supportive seating can also contribute to this effort.
  • Stretching and Strengthening: Regular exercises to strengthen the hip and core muscles, as well as stretching exercises to maintain flexibility, can improve joint stability and prevent injuries that may lead to bursitis.
  • Wearing Appropriate Footwear: Shoes that provide proper support can improve alignment and reduce the risk of developing hip bursitis, especially during activities that involve running or walking on hard surfaces.

By integrating these preventive measures into daily routines, people can significantly reduce their risk of developing hip bursitis and maintain healthy hip function over time.

When to Seek Medical Advice

While many cases of hip bursitis can be managed with home care and over-the-counter treatments, certain situations warrant professional medical advice. Indications that it is time to see an orthopaedic specialist include:

  • Persistent Pain: If pain and discomfort do not improve with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers within a week or two, a consultation with an orthopaedic specialist is advisable.
  • Intense or Worsening Symptoms: Severe pain that suddenly worsens or symptoms that significantly impair mobility and daily activities should prompt an immediate medical evaluation.
  • Signs of Infection: If the area around the hip becomes red, warm, and more swollen, and is accompanied by fever, these could be signs of an infected bursa (septic bursitis), which requires urgent medical treatment.
  • Recurrent Episodes: Frequent recurrences of bursitis symptoms after initial improvement may indicate underlying issues that need to be addressed by an orthopaedic specialist.

Early diagnosis and treatment of hip bursitis can lead to a better outcome and prevent the condition from becoming chronic or leading to complications. 


Hip bursitis is a condition that can cause significant pain and impact a person’s ability to perform daily activities. However, with a comprehensive understanding of its causes, symptoms, and treatment options, most people can manage the condition effectively and return to their normal activities without lasting discomfort. Taking proactive measures to prevent and treat hip bursitis allows people to preserve their hip health and continue to lead active, fulfilling lives.