Last updated: May 29, 2020

Anatomy & Background

The hip is built for weight bearing and the ability to move in several different planes. A bursa is a fluid filled sack that reduces friction between tendons as well as friction between tendons and bone. There are four bursae surrounding the hip joint with the most commonly injured bursa being the trochanteric bursa. The four major bursae of the hip are:

  • Trochanteric Bursa: located on the outside of the hip between the greater trochanter of the femur (leg bone) and the gluteal muscles.
  • Ischial Bursa: located between the hamstring muscle and the ischial tuberosity of the pelvis in the buttock area.
  • Iliopsoas Bursa: located in the groin area between the large psoas muscle and femur bone.
  • Gluteal Medius Bursa: located between the gluteus medius muscle and the greater trochanter. It is near the trochanteric bursa.

Causes of Hip Bursitis

  • A direct blow to the bursa from falling on the outside of the hip or on the buttocks, can produce inflammation and irritation.
  • A fall onto the hip or bursa.
  • Constant pressure from lying on the side of the bursa.
  • Repeated stress or friction injury as the tendon rubs over the bursa during activity.
  • Weakness of the muscles over the bursa.
  • Complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or gout.
  • Infection of the bursa.
  • Tightness in the hip, specifically the psoas hip flexor, iliotibial band and hamstrings.
  • The bursa may become swollen as a response to other hip conditions.


  • Pain and tenderness over the location of the bursa (especially on the outside of the greater trochanter bursae which may radiate down the outside of the thigh. The psoas bursae will produce groin pain while the ischial bursa may produce pain in the buttock area).
  • Pain during activities that stress the bursa or causes stress to the tendons that are lubricated by the bursa, like kneeling, jumping, and running.
  • Swelling, accompanied by loss of motion of the hip.

Physical Therapy Intervenes

Physical therapy for hip bursitis must remain conservative at first to avoid further agitation. There should be a focus on rest, inflammation reduction and attempting to increase blood circulation to promote healing. Once inflammation is under control, a program of stretching and functional strengthening will begin, aiming to restore full motion, reduce imbalances by increasing strength and lowering the amount of stress on the tendons and bursae of the hip joint. Common physical therapy interventions in the treatment of Hip Bursitis include:

  • Manual Therapeutic Technique (MTT) soft tissue massage, stretching and joint mobilization by a physical therapist to regain mobility and range of motion of the knee as well as to modulate pain.
  • Therapeutic Exercises (TE) stretching and strengthening exercises to regain range of motion and strengthen muscles of the knee to support, stabilize and decrease the stresses placed on the burse and tendons of the hip joint.
  • Neuromuscular Reeducation (NMR) aids by restoring stability and improving movement techniques and mechanics, such as kneeling, of the involved lower extremity to reduce stress on burase and tendons in daily activities.
  • Modalities including the use of ultrasound, electrical stimulation, ice, cold laser and others to decrease pain and inflammation of the involved bursae.

A home program that includes strengthening, stretching and stabilization exercises to help the person perform daily tasks and advance to the next functional level.

Medicine Intervenes

The first line of treatment involves limiting the activities that produce pain or stress to the involved bursa. Further treatment methods include:

  • RICE: (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to reduce the stress on the bursa.
  • NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Antibiotics may be necessary if bursitis is due to infection.
  • Aspiration of the bursa fluid involving the fluid’s removal with a needle and syringe – often there is inadequate fluid accumulation for aspiration.
  • Injection of steroids to reduce inflammation in bursa.
  • Physical Therapy to reduce pain and inflammation, improve flexibility and strengthen the surrounding muscles of the hip.
  • Patients often benefit by weight reduction, stretching exercises and wearing proper footwear for exercise activities.
  • In the most extreme cases, surgery may be advised to remove the bursa.


A round of conservative treatment usually produces encouraging results for most patients suffering from hip bursitis. It is important to start curtailing pain and inflammation immediately so that motion and strength to the area may be restored. This will help the patient gradually return to performing daily activities and further instruction should be given to help the patient reduce the chance of a re-occurrence of the bursitis. Generally, most patients can return to full activity within 2 to 6 weeks depending on the severity of the condition. Some preventative measures patients can undertake to reduce re-occurrence are:

  • Modifications to work or daily activities so as to avoid prolonged pressure or unexpected blows on the bursa.
  • Maintaining a routine of strength and flexibility exercises to reduce stress on the bursa and tendons of the hip.
  • Avoiding highly repetitive activities if possible.

Hip Bursitis FAQ

What is Bursitis of the Hip?

Hip bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa. A bursa is a water-filled sac in between the bone and soft tissue. The hip has two bursae- one in the bony part of the hip and one is on the inside, or the groin side, or the hip. When the bursa get inflamed it is called bursitis. This often causes pain and prevents you from enjoying your daily activities.

What Does Bursitis in the Hip Feel Like?

The most common bursitis hip symptom is a pain in the outside of the hip. The pain is sharp and intense at first and then becomes an aching. The pain usually worsens at night or when getting up after sitting for a long time. The pain can go away and come back or last for up to a week.

Your hip may also become swollen and you may feel tenderness in the affected area.

How Long Does it Take for Bursitis in the Hip to Heal?

If your hip bursitis is not severe it can heal in up to a week. If you have chronic hip pain and a seriously inflamed hip bursa it can take a few months to heal. The incision wound from hip bursitis treatment takes 10 days to heal. Your hip will continue improving for a year after your surgery.

How Painful is Hip Bursitis?

In the early stages of hip bursitis the main is sharp and intense. Later, the pain becomes an ache and may spread down the leg. The pain worsens at night or after long periods of sitting. You can decrease your hip bursitis pain by doing some doctor prescribed stretches and exercises.

What Exercises Help Hip Bursitis?

To help with hip bursitis you can do some bursitis exercises that include stretching and strengthening. Begin with a gluteal stretch by lying on your back with your knees bent and one ankle over the opposite thigh. Pull your legs toward yourself and feel the stretch in your hips and glutes.

To strengthen the hips you can do a straight leg raise by laying on the floor with one knee bend. Raise the other leg about 8 inches off the ground. This will help strengthen the muscles of the injured hip and provide more support.

This page was published on Jul 18, 2017, modified on May 29, 2020 by Dr. Freeman (Pain Management Specialist) of Redefine Healthcare
Dr. Eric D. Freeman, a highly regarded pain specialist

Dr. Eric D. Freeman, a highly regarded pain specialist in New Jersey, is board-certified and fellowship-trained in Interventional Spine and Pain Management and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He is an expert in minimally invasive spinal procedures and non-surgical orthopedic care.

Dr. Freeman is a member of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Interventional Pain Practice Society. In addition, he serves as the Immediate Past President of the New Jersey Society of Interventional Pain Physicians. Dr. Freeman is well-known in the field of pain management as a leading pain management doctor, having been named one of "America's Top Physicians."

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