Why does my hip hurt? What is hip bursitis? How do I alleviate hip bursitis pain?

If you’ve been experiencing a pain along the outside or front of your hip it may be due to an inflamed bursa sac, otherwise known as bursitis. “Okay, but what is a bursa sac,” you ask? Well, it’s a sac filled with a jelly-like substance that creates a buffer between your bones and the overlying soft tissues. Bursa sacs are present around most joints and work to reduce frictional rub and irritation when you move; however when these sacs are over-compressed (by the trauma of falling on your hip or repetitive use), they can become a great source of pain. While hip pain can be caused by a number of structures other than the bursa, including the joint, labrum, or nerves, bursitis pain typically presents as point tenderness along the outside of the hip.

To help alleviate hip bursitis pain, avoid repetitive activities that seem to produce your pain. Start a stretching routine for the hip muscles. You can stretch the outside of your hip by lying on your non-painful side and dropping your painful leg back behind you over the edge of a bed. You can stretch the front of your hip by lying on your back at the edge of your bed, allowing your painful leg to dangle over the edge of the bed. (Be sure to keep your non-painful leg on the bed with your knee flexed for comfort). To stretch the back of the hip, lie on your back and use your hands to pull your knee toward your opposite shoulder. Hold the stretches for 20-30 seconds and repeat each one 2-3 times. It’s also important to strengthen the hip musculature. To do so, perform straight leg lifts on your back (with opposite knee bent and the foot on the bed to protect your low back), your sides (keep toes pointing forward), and on your stomach (being careful not to over-arch your back). Try 10 repetitions, then rest and repeat.

You may also want to consider using a cane to lessen the weight on the painful joint. (Carry the cane in the hand opposite your painful hip). After exercise or activity try icing the painful area to reduce the inflammation and soreness. If your pain persists, contact your local physical therapist for an evaluation to better determine the source of your pain and appropriate treatment for it.

Kristin Collins, PT, DPT, COMT