What is Bursitis and How is it Treated?

Ramin Tabaddor, MD

Bursitis is a common, painful condition that affects many Americans.

Our bodies are filled with small fluid-filled sacs called bursae that are located at friction points, such as joints or bony prominences. These bursa help cushion and protect the bone from friction as tendons and muscles cross over bone during movement, especially in places like elbows, knees and hips. Bursitis occurs when these fluid-filled sacs become irritated and inflamed from too much friction or pressure.

What causes bursitis?

Bursitis typically results from repetitive overuse or repetitive stress over a certain part of our body where bursa exist. However, it can also result from nearby inflammation such as tendinitis or a torn tendon near or on top of the bursa.

The signs of bursitis:

The symptoms of bursitis typically include:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • stiffness
  • possible warmth and redness, if infected

Bursitis and the hip

Bursitis can occur anywhere we have bursa sacs. The bursa sac on our hip (the trochanteric bursa), is located on the prominent bone (the greater trochanter) on the upper outside portion of our thigh. This is one of the largest bursa sacs in our body and sees a significant amount of stress and friction as a large number of muscles and tendons rub over it. The stress and friction increase as we walk, run, move from sitting to standing position, and sleep on our sides.

How is bursitis treated?

Bursitis can be treated in a number of ways.

  • Initially, it is treated with a period of rest or activity modifications to reduce the amount of friction or pressure on the affected area.
  • Treatments also include ice, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, possibly cortisone injections and, if conservative management fails, surgery to remove the bursitis.
  • Treatment should also include identifying and treating any associated factors that can lead to the bursitis such as tendinitis and tendon tears.

Can it be prevented?

The best way to prevent bursitis is by staying active and keeping joints moving. Stay on top of stretching, which may be the most important prevention.

Pain that doesn’t go away

Hip bursitis (trochanteric bursitis) may be a sign of a more serious issue. If you continue to have bursitis pain at the hip that has not improved despite extensive treatment, you may have a tear of a muscle located next to the bursa called the gluteus medius. A tear of this muscle can cause significant pain that extends into the buttocks and down the leg. It can be associated with weakness, an altered gait pattern and inability to sleep on one’s side.

Do not let this pain go on too long before reaching out to a hip specialist. The sooner you see a specialist, the greater the chance of appropriately identifying and successfully resolving the issue.

For more information on bursitis and other conditions we treat, visit our website.

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