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Hip Bursitis

Find out how to treat and prevent this painful inflammation of the hip.
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Last updated April 22, 2024

Hip bursitis quiz

Take a quiz to find out if you have hip bursitis.

Hip bursitis quiz

Take a quiz to find out if you have hip bursitis.

Take hip bursitis quiz

What is hip bursitis?

Hip bursitis is a soft-tissue condition that causes pain around the outside of the hip. Other names are lateral hip pain syndrome and trochanteric bursitis.

It often happens after sitting for a long time, repeatedly getting up and down from a chair, side sleeping, or climbing stairs. In some cases, bursitis is from falling onto the hip (known as traumatic bursitis).

What does bursitis in the hip feel like?

Dr. Rx

Give yourself a hip check. Press down on the outside of your hip bone. If it triggers the hip pain you've been feeling, then it probably is bursitis. —Dr. Benjamin Schwartz

The pain is typically a dull ache. And is centered around the outside of the hip. You may notice it after sleeping on your side.

Often it's in just one hip. Though it can happen in both hips.

Your iliotibial band (ITB) may also be tight or painful. The ITB is a long, thick muscle that runs along the outside of the leg to the outer knee area.

Main symptoms

  • Dull, aching pain on the outside of the hip.
  • Pain when sleeping on your side.
  • Pain on the outside of the hip. Most often from sitting too long, when getting up from a sitting position, or climbing stairs.

Other symptoms of hip bursitis

  • Giving way (buckling) of the leg.
  • The outside of the hip or along the ITB is sore when touched.
  • Unable to find a comfortable sleep position.

What causes hip bursitis to flare up?

Pro Tip

The key to success is to be patient. Limiting activities can be frustrating, but will lead to a quicker recovery. Commit to physical therapy. And to regular anti-inflammatory use. People often give up on the medications before they have a chance to work. Please don't! —Dr. Schwartz

Hip bursitis is more common in women. Though men develop it too.

  • Repetitive motions like ladder or stair climbing, kneeling/crouching, getting up and down from a sitting position.
  • Walking or running on hills or uneven ground.
  • Sleeping on your side, which puts pressure on the hip bursa. The bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac.
  • Having a stiff back or tight hip/leg muscles, particularly the ITB.
  • Falling on the side of the hip (traumatic bursitis).

A stiff back—possibly from arthritis or surgery—can lead to tight ITBs. It then puts pressure on the outside of the hip.

Hip bursitis quiz

Take a quiz to find out if you have hip bursitis.

Take hip bursitis quiz

Next steps

Hip bursitis can be intense. It can make walking painful. Still, it's rarely an emergency.

You can try to treat it yourself. But see a doctor if it's still painful after 4 to 6 weeks. If pain shoots below the knee and into the foot. Or you notice numbness or weakness in the leg.

Try NSAIDs, heat/ice, activity modification, and physical therapy exercises. See your doctor or an orthopedic surgeon if these home treatments are not working.

You may also want to see a physical therapist (PT) for exercises.

Pro Tip

I often tell my patients that they are better off having bursitis instead of arthritis. Bursitis is a soft tissue disorder and is curable. Arthritis is a disease of joint cartilage and isn't reversible. The endgame of arthritis treatment often involves hip replacement surgery. Only rarely does hip bursitis require surgery. —Dr. Schwartz

Hip bursitis quiz

Take a quiz to find out if you have hip bursitis.

Take hip bursitis quiz

Treatments for bursitis

Minimize climbing stairs, repetitive bending/crouching, sitting for too long, and walking/running on uneven or hilly surfaces. And especially, sleeping on your side.

Simple stretching exercises can lessen symptoms. You can download hip rehabilitation exercises from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

  • If you are not improving after exercising on your own, you may need PT. PT will probably involve stretching of the muscles (particularly the ITB), massage, foam rolling, electrical stimulation, and strengthening.
  • NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen are one of the most effective treatments. Take NSAIDs as directed for at least 2 to 3 weeks. Often, people stop taking it before they have a chance to work.
  • Ice is best for numbing pain and reducing swelling. Heat loosens and soothes tight muscles. Experiment with both to figure out which is most effective for you.
  • Corticosteroid ("cortisone") injections act as a targeted anti-inflammatory. Cortisone is injected directly into the hip bursal area.
  • Bursitis rarely requires surgery. Though, sometimes, removal of the bursa (bursectomy) is an option.


If after a year or more of trying other treatments without success, your doctor may want to discuss surgery.

Surgery for bursitis involves excising (cutting out) the bursa and lengthening the ITB to relieve tension. This may be through a full incision (open bursectomy) or smaller incisions (arthroscopic bursectomy). With some exceptions, it's outpatient—no overnight hospital stay.

The success rate of bursectomy varies. It is not always successful. And the bursa can grow back.

Ready to treat your hip bursitis?

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The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.
Such a Frustrating Condition for an Active PersonPosted April 2, 2024 by A.
I am a fairly active person, who relies on physical activity to stay sane and feel energized and happy. I ran a 5K about a year ago and soon after began experiencing pain in my hip that would be worse after driving somewhere in the car. The first 50 steps from the car to the store were painful. I also experienced pain, after sitting on the couch watching a movie. I also noticed in time, that lying on the side of the affected hip brought pain also. This pain became more frequent, showing up when I climbed the stairs, my daily walk in a forested path near my home, was no long enjoyable but quite painful. After the pain began to radiate down to my shin, I went to a dr. He diagnosed Bursitus and gave me a cortizone shot. It worked! I felt like I was back to my old self for two months! It was great! But, my pain is back now. It is frustrating. I did not enjoy my gym class today. Then I begin researching and find out that there are some things I can do to heal this condition. I hope this is right, and I wonder why the DR nor the physical therapist educated me in this way. So frustrating.
A very painful conditionPosted September 20, 2021 by P.
It's 5:30 a.m and I've been awakened again from a deep sleep from the pain of bursitis in my left hip. The pain is a burning and throbbing pain that won't let up. The pain is also very intense. It's traveling all the way down to the knee. When I'm not sleeping, I can barely walk around the house. (I'm fine when I'm walking outside on my daily walks.) When I sit down to try and relieve the pain it helps some. But getting back up from the chair makes me realize I shouldn't have sat down in the first place. Getting up from a sitting position causes excruciating pain that stays with me the whole day, especially when my hip is flaring. I am an active 70-year-old female. I have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. I am taking prednisone tabs, Plaquenil, naproxen. For some reason, cortisone injections are not really helping me. I've had them for my knees and they only helped slightly. I walk an hour each day. It hurts a lot, but I do it because it helps keep my depression from illness at bay. I think a big aggravator to my condition is that I am a writer and can sit for hours at a time. Cortisone cream rubbed into the hip seems to take the edge off. Prednisone tabs help as well. I feel sorry for anyone who suffers from this condition.
Dr. Schwartz is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Member of the Buoy Medical Advisory Board. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the College of William and Mary (1998) with a B.S. in Biology, then obtained his medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia (2002) where he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. After completing his Orthopedic Surgery Residency at Bost...
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