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Trochanteric Bursitis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Trochanteric bursitis is the inflammation and irritation of protective fluid-filled sacs on the hip bone. Read this lesson to learn about common symptoms and causes of trochanteric bursitis, and how to treat it.

Consistent Hip Pain

An avid mountain climber for decades, Jean has explored nature and her surroundings by foot. However, as she gets older, she finds it increasingly more difficult to climb as far as she used to. She is suffering from daily hip pain for the past several months, and wants to put off an appointment with the doctor until after her annual hike on the Rocky Mountains. Now that she plans on leaving for the big trip in just a few weeks, she figures she should investigate the cause of her pain before she can no longer hike at all.

What is Trochanteric Bursitis?

Jean explains her symptoms to the doctor out of fear that she will not be able to hike unless the pain subsides. She describes her pain as:

  • Aching and burning on the outside of the hip
  • Pain that extends from the hip and down to the knee
  • Discomfort and pain when the hip is in motion, for example, when climbing or going from a sitting to a standing position
  • Pain when palpating or pressing on the affected hip

Bursa are located on the greater trochanter ridge.
Bursa are located on the greater trochanter ridge.

The doctor listens to her describe her symptoms and suspects a condition known as trochanteric bursitis. Bursitis, or inflammation and irritation of fluid-sacs (bursa) that protect the bone, may occur on the outside or lateral aspect of the hip. This outside ridge of hip bone, referred to as the trochanter, hurts Jean when the doctor presses to examine it.

What Causes Trochanter Bursitis?

Due to her advanced age and past medical history, the doctor explains that joint swelling, known as arthritis, may be the underlying cause of her hip bursitis. Other causes of this condition may include:

  • Overuse of the hip joint
  • Recent injury to the trochanter causing irritation to the bursa
  • History of gout, or the painful build-up of crystals within the joint areas
  • Poor posture and body positioning causing strain to the hip
  • Bone spurs

Receiving Treatment

Because Jean's normal daily life is impacted by her pain, her doctor explains that treatment is necessary. The following is recommended to treat trochanter bursitis.

Medication

Medication like ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory, is recommended to reduce the swelling associated with bursitis. When the swelling is reduced, the irritation may lessen and cut down the pain Jean is experiencing. If the pain does not resolve with the use of oral medications, steroids may be injected into the bursa to minimize the swelling and irritation.

Physical Therapy

The use of physical therapy treatment and special exercises may increase flexibility and range of motion within the hip area. If posture or poor body positioning and mechanics is the cause of the bursitis, physical therapy may identify corrective solutions to address the cause of the pain. Heat applications and cold compresses, along with period of rest or inactivity, may be recommended.

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