What Is Trochanteric Bursitis? Expert Insights On Diagnosis and Care

trochanteric bursitis

Anyone who has experienced the sharp, nagging pain on the outer side of their hip knows how much it can disrupt daily life. Every step, twist, or stretch can feel like a daunting task, turning routine activities into uncomfortable challenges. For many, this pain is the result of a condition called trochanteric bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa located at the outer point of the hip. It’s not just a simple ache; it’s a signal from your body that something is amiss. So, dive in to understand what trochanteric bursitis is, what causes it, its symptoms, and the array of treatments available to help you reclaim your mobility and comfort.

What is Trochanteric Bursitis? 

Trochanteric bursitis is a specific type of inflammatory condition affecting the bursa located at the greater trochanter, which is the prominent bony point of the hip. The bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between the bones and the soft tissues, reducing friction and facilitating smooth joint movement.

In the context of the hip, there are several bursae, but the one most commonly inflamed is the trochanteric bursa. When it becomes irritated or inflamed, it can cause pain and discomfort in the lateral hip area.

Differentiating it from other bursitis types:

  • Location: While other forms of bursitis may affect different parts of the body, like the elbow (olecranon bursitis) or knee (prepatellar bursitis), trochanteric bursitis specifically targets the outer hip.
  • Cause: While the root causes of bursitis are often similar—repetitive use, trauma, or inflammatory conditions—trochanteric bursitis might be triggered by specific activities that put undue stress on the hips, such as prolonged standing or running on uneven surfaces.
  • Symptoms: The primary symptom is pain on the outer part of the hip. However, the intensity, duration, and associated symptoms can differ from other bursitis forms.

Understanding trochanteric bursitis is crucial because addressing it requires targeted interventions, and its symptoms can be easily mistaken for other hip conditions.

Common Causes Behind Trochanteric Bursitis

Trochanteric bursitis can be the result of a myriad of causes, with some individuals being more susceptible due to certain risk factors. Let’s explore the typical reasons behind the development of this condition:

  • Injury or Trauma: A direct blow or fall onto the hip can cause inflammation of the trochanteric bursa. Even seemingly minor injuries can initiate the inflammation process if the bursa is impacted.
  • Repetitive Motion or Overuse: Engaging in activities that require repeated or prolonged movements, especially those that exert pressure on the hip, can irritate the bursa. Examples include long-distance running, cycling, or even standing for extended periods.
  • Incorrect Posture: Standing or walking with an abnormal gait or posture can lead to uneven distribution of weight. This can place extra strain on the trochanteric bursa, contributing to inflammation over time.
  • Underlying Health Conditions: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or thyroid disorders can predispose an individual to various inflammatory conditions, including trochanteric bursitis.
  • Bone Spurs or Calcifications: Abnormal bony growths in the hip or tendons around the hip can irritate the bursa, leading to inflammation.
  • Leg Length Discrepancy: If one leg is shorter than the other, it can result in abnormal force and stress on the longer leg’s hip, leading to bursitis.
  • Previous Surgeries: Surgeries around the hip region, especially if they involve placement of screws or plates near the greater trochanter, can cause irritation to the bursa.
  • Spine Diseases: Conditions like scoliosis or arthritis in the lumbar spine can alter the mechanics of the hip joint, indirectly leading to bursitis.

Understanding the root cause of trochanteric bursitis is the first step toward effective treatment and prevention. If you suspect you have this condition, it’s essential to identify any potential triggers in order to tailor your management approach effectively.

Key Symptoms to Watch For

For those wondering whether they might be experiencing trochanteric bursitis, understanding the hallmark symptoms can guide them toward the right course of action. Here are the key indicators to be aware of:

  • Localized Pain: The most prominent symptom is pain at the point of the hip, specifically on the outer side of the upper thigh. This pain might begin as sharp or intense and then turn into a consistent ache.
  • Worsened Pain with Movement: Activities like walking, climbing stairs, or even lying on the affected side can exacerbate the pain. Movements that stretch the outer thigh can also trigger discomfort.
  • Tenderness to Touch: The outer hip may be particularly sensitive to direct pressure, making activities like sleeping on that side uncomfortable.
  • Stiffness: Some individuals may experience stiffness in the hip, particularly after waking up in the morning or after prolonged sitting.
  • Swelling: In some cases, there might be noticeable swelling over the greater trochanter where the bursa is located.
  • Warmth or Redness: Though less common, the affected area might feel warm to touch or show signs of redness, indicating inflammation.
  • Limited Range of Motion: As the condition progresses, there might be a reduced ability to move the hip through its complete range, particularly in motions that stretch or compress the affected bursa.

If you notice a combination of these symptoms, especially if they persist or interfere with daily activities, it’s essential to seek medical advice.

Diagnostic Methods

  1. Physical Examination: A doctor assesses pain and tenderness by applying pressure to specific parts of the hip.
  2. X-ray Imaging: Used to rule out other conditions like fractures or arthritis.
  3. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): Provides detailed images of soft tissues and can help identify bursitis.
  4. Ultrasound: Uses sound waves to produce images of the hip, showing inflammation in the bursa.
  5. Blood Tests: To rule out other conditions or infections that might cause similar symptoms.
  6. Aspiration: Involves removing a small amount of fluid from the bursa for testing to rule out infection or gout.
  7. Range of Motion Tests: Determines any limitations in movement due to the condition.
  8. Gait Analysis: Observes walking patterns to identify any irregularities possibly linked to bursitis.
  9. Functional Movement Screening: Assesses strength, flexibility, and coordination to determine any underlying issues contributing to the condition.

Knowing the appropriate diagnostic method is crucial, as it not only confirms the presence of trochanteric bursitis but can also help tailor the most effective treatment plan.

Initial Treatment Approaches For Healing

When faced with the discomfort of trochanteric bursitis, your immediate priority is relief and healing. Before delving into more extensive treatments, it’s beneficial to start with non-invasive, readily available methods:

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Taking a break from activities that exacerbate the pain can provide significant relief. It allows the inflamed bursa to heal without further irritation.
  • Cold Compress: Applying ice or a cold pack to the affected hip area for 20 minutes several times a day can help reduce swelling and ease pain. Remember to wrap the ice or cold pack in a cloth to prevent frostbite.
  • Over-the-counter Pain Relievers: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can be effective in reducing inflammation and pain. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any medication.
  • Compression: Wearing a supportive bandage or wrap can help alleviate pain and reduce swelling by providing gentle compression to the area.
  • Elevation: Whenever possible, try elevating the affected leg. This can help reduce swelling, especially if the bursitis is caused by an injury.
  • Gentle Stretches: Engaging in mild hip stretches can maintain mobility and reduce stiffness. However, it’s crucial to ensure that these don’t cause more pain.
  • Weight Management: If you’re overweight, reducing weight can decrease stress on the hip, helping alleviate symptoms.

Remember, these initial treatment approaches are a starting point. If you see little to no improvement or if symptoms persist, it may be time to consult with a medical professional for a more targeted treatment plan.

Exploring Professional Treatment Options

Trochanteric bursitis, like many orthopedic conditions, has a spectrum of treatments that cater to its severity and persistence. If initial at-home methods don’t provide the relief you’re seeking, professional interventions might be the next step. Here’s a look at some advanced treatment options:

Physical Therapy

A cornerstone in treating trochanteric bursitis, physical therapy focuses on strengthening the muscles around the hip to reduce strain on the bursa. Therapists will provide targeted exercises and stretches to improve mobility and reduce inflammation.

Corticosteroid Injections

For persistent pain and inflammation, a physician might recommend an injection of corticosteroids directly into the bursa. This potent anti-inflammatory agent can provide rapid relief, though it’s generally not the first line of defense due to potential side effects.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy

An emerging treatment in the realm of orthopedics, PRP involves drawing a small amount of the patient’s blood, processing it to concentrate the platelets, and then injecting it into the injured area. The growth factors in PRP can help to accelerate the healing process.

Assistive Devices

In cases where the pain is severe, using a walking cane or crutch can help reduce pressure on the affected hip, giving the inflamed bursa a better chance to heal.


Surgical intervention is rare and usually considered only when all other treatments have failed and the pain has become disabling. The procedure typically involves removing the inflamed bursa.

Shock Wave Therapy

A non-invasive treatment where high-energy shock waves are introduced to the painful areas of the body. This method is believed to stimulate the body’s natural healing process.

Ultrasound-guided Needling

Under the guidance of ultrasound, a needle is used to aspirate (draw out) the inflamed fluid from the bursa. Sometimes combined with corticosteroid injections for enhanced relief.

Choosing the right treatment depends heavily on individual factors like the severity of pain, the underlying cause, age, and overall health. A holistic discussion with your healthcare provider will help identify the most suitable treatment path tailored to your needs.


Dealing with trochanteric bursitis can be a challenging journey, characterized by discomfort and limitations in daily activities. However, understanding the condition is the first step to effectively managing and eventually overcoming the pain. While initial treatments and home remedies can offer relief, there’s immense value in seeking professional guidance. Remember, you’re not alone in this. There are dedicated experts ready to assist and guide you back to a pain-free life.

If you’re experiencing Hip pain, physical therapy for hip pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.