Bursitis of the Hip: Treatment and Prevention
Tiny fluid-filled sacs called “bursae” are positioned in multiple locations throughout the body between bones and ligaments, between bones in joint areas, and in places where tendons or muscle come in contact with bone surfaces. These little sacs act as cushions and buffers in these areas of contact, and when they’re healthy, they allow tendons, ligaments, muscles and other bones to glide over bony surfaces in an easy and frictionless way. Bursae protect both simple joints (like the elbow) and complex, multi-directional joints, like the hip, from friction and pain.
But when the bursae become inured or inflamed, the result can be severe swelling and pain in the joint area. And when a joint becomes painful, people often favor that part of the body, reduce their range of motion, or stop using the joint altogether. These compromised or limited movements can lead to increased damage, overuse injuries in compensating muscle groups, and atrophy of underused muscles in the affected area.
This can be a problem in any part of the body where we rely on bursae to support pain free motion. But it can be specifically damaging and unpleasant when bursitis, or an inflammation of the bursae, takes place in the hip joint. This is called trochanteric bursitis, and this condition is fairly common among athletes. The pain that results can be chronic, acute, or reoccurring, which means it can be low grade and constant, it can flare up only once, or it can flare up, disappear with treatment and then come back.
Bursitis of the Hip: Symptoms
The symptoms of both chronic and acute bursitis are often similar in the early stages, and they tend to involve swelling, pain, achiness and tenderness in the hip area. The swelling can be sharp and stabbing at first, and may settle into a kind of dull ach over the next few days. The ache tends to be worse when the body has been still for a while and then begins to move, as when we get out of bed in the morning or stand up from a chair after sitting down for a long time.
These symptoms are more likely to be a result of bursitis if the hip has been exposed to a recent injury or has been subjected to a prolonged period of strain or overuse. If you’re feeling any of the sensations listed above in your hip joint, review your workout routine or recent training program. Have you been running longer distances than usual? Has you hip been subjected to an unusual degree of twisting or trauma? Have you recently experienced an accident or fall?
If so, then damage to the bursae in the hip may be the cause of the aches and swelling. A doctor can confirm this with an MRI, an Xray, and a set of questions and stretching motions of the hip that can help her rule out other possible causes, like fractures, gout, arthritis, certain types of bacterial infections, or diabetes.
Bursitis of the Hip: Treatment Options
In the meantime, if you aren’t able to a see a doctor or the pain isn’t sever enough to warrant a visit to your healthcare provider, there are a few ways you can mitigate or reduce the pain of bursitis on your own. Start by applying the RICE principles listed below.
Rest: Reduce the pressure and demands you place on the hip joint on a daily basis. While discontinuing all motion and lying in bed might not be possible, it’s still a good idea to relax a rigorous workout program, discontinue all training moves that involve the hip joint, and slow down for a few days. Give the bursae an opportunity to recover and regain their strength and integrity.
Ice: Apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to the area a few times a day. Keep the ice pack in place for no more than 20 minutes at a time. This can help reduce the swelling and fluid build-up that increase pressure and aggravate pain.
Compression and elevation: It’s not easy to compress and elevate the hip area, but the principles still apply; Any position or gentle pressure that keeps down fluid build-up and reduces swelling can be advantageous.
Anti-Inflammatory pain medications: Over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications like Advil and Motrin can help to reduce the pain as well, as can a few doses of naproxen (Aleve).
As the pain begins to fade away, the muscles should not be allowed to atrophy completely, since this can lead to a different set of health problems and setbacks. So as the hip feels better and your range of motion increases, slowly begin to engage in stretching and gentle exercises. A doctor or physical therapist can prescribe specific stretches and can help you complete them with proper technique.
On some cases, especially those involving chronic or reoccurring bursitis, these exercises and gentle stretches may not be enough to reduce the problem completely. If this happens, talk to your doctor about receiving steroid shots or having excess fluid withdrawn from the bursa directly in order to reduce the swelling. Most of the time, surgery isn’t really necessary for bursitis.
Bursitis of the Hip: Prevention
The best forms of protection against bursitis of the hip are simple steps that most people can easily incorporate into their regular workout routine:
1. Stretch and warm up properly before engaging in any intense exercises that involve the hips and core, which may include cardio workouts like running.
2. Take sufficient rest breaks between sets. After an intense series of cardio or strength building moves that engage the hips, rest for at least a minute or a minute and a half before launching into the next round.
3. If you’re carrying a few extra pounds, losing them can greatly reduce bursitis risk and pressure on the hips while working out or just carrying out normal activities like walking.
4. Observe proper technique and form during all hip-related exercises. Try to avoid over-rotation or hyperextension of the hips. Using targeted suspension and resistance training equipment like the Kbands and KB Duo can keep the body aligned properly and reduce stress and tension on the joints during intense workouts.