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A bursa is a fluid-filled sac which prevents bones and tendons from rubbing against each other. If the bursa becomes traumatised from injury or repetitive strain, it becomes swollen, inflamed and painful. When bursitis occurs in the hip, it is known as Trochanteric Bursitis.
One of the first symptoms of hip bursitis is severe hip pain, coupled with warmth and swelling in the surrounding area. Where the degree of inflammation is more severe, there may be further pain which radiates out from the hip area to encompass parts of the leg. Long-distance runners are particularly prone to this type of injury, but any repetitive motion can increase the risk of bursitis as well as a knock or blow to the upper thigh and hip area.
A patient with hip bursitis usually complains of hip pain which can be severe enough to prevent sleeping at night, and he or she will usually experience pain or discomfort when walking and when tackling stairs, as these put pressure on the inflamed bursa. A medical practitioner or sports physiotherapist will usually make a diagnosis based on symptoms, but an ultrasound can be used if necessary in order to confirm the diagnosis.
It is extremely important to rest the affected hip as much as possible in the early stages of recovery, as movement places strain on the bursa and creates further inflammation and hip pain. The application of ice packs is recommended to reduce swelling, making sure not to allow ice to come into contact with the skin to avoid the risk of frost burns. The standard advice is to apply ice packs for around twenty minutes every couple of hours at first, in conjunction with painkillers such as paracetamol or anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
Chronic cases of hip bursitis involving hip pain which continues for more than a few weeks may require a corticosteroid injection into the hip. After a further week of recovery, the patient is usually able to begin a rehabilitation programme to return to regular activities. Any further occurrences of hip pain should be taken as the body’s warning to take things more gently for the time being until the injury is fully healed.
Exercises which stretch the hip and thigh can help to rehabilitate the hip joint, and most physiotherapists recommend the use of resistance bands and Swiss balls to build up core strength before embarking on more vigorous exercise. Trying to return to a former exercise programme too soon can delay healing and so should be avoided.
The advice is to take care with any exercise regime, particularly running, which can cause stress to the hip and thigh joints and can lead to hip pain. Increasing the distances run by gentle increments allows the body’s structures to develop appropriate levels of fitness and strength, which helps to prevent injuries from occurring.