Trochanteric bursitis: a condition that makes it difficult to walk, run and sleep!

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What exactly is bursitis?

Trochanteric bursitis is simply an inflammation of the bursa at the outside point of the hip, called the greater trochanter.  But what is a bursa? A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that secretes a lubricating fluid when a joint is compressed during movement or weight bearing. Therefore, its function is principally to ensure that the joint is properly lubricated. When the bursa is irritated, inflammatory chemicals are released in the lubricating fluid. This then triggers off a vicious cycle!

Causes and risk factors

This condition is often the result of a direct impact to the hip caused by falling on the side of the hip, bumping it against an object or a hard blow during a sports activity. Sustained compression or a significant impact is required to irritate the bursa in this way. Repeated movements like running, walking, biking or martial arts can also cause an irritation of the bursa. Also, a difference in leg length, an infection, or calcific tendinitis around the hip can lead to the development of bursitis in this joint.

Signs and symptoms

Pain is often felt at the hip and in the area of the buttock. Sometimes the pain can extend to the outer part of the hip and radiate down the thigh to the knee. It can develop or worsen during walking, running or mainly when sitting with legs crossed. The pain can also be so intense that it wakes you up at night. Swelling may occur due to an increased amount of fluid in the bursa. This can be followed by a redness of the skin and a feeling of warmth in the affected due to inflammation or an infection of the bursa. Generally, an X-Ray or MRI are not used to diagnosis trochanteric bursitis, unless a fracture is suspected.

What do I do if I have bursitis?

First of all, it is important to reduce the inflammation with anti-inflammatory medications either taken orally or applied topically in the form of a cream. This can also be combined with physiotherapy treatments such as ultrasound, iontophoresis and the application of electrical current.

In the second phase of treatment, manual therapy can be performed by mobilizing the hip, knee and even the spine. Soft tissue manipulation of the gluteal muscles may also be effective.

Finally, it is of utmost importance to incorporate strengthening exercises in order to rebalance the hip muscles and adjust posture.

Positions, movements and activities to avoid

In short, trochanteric bursitis is a condition that should not be taken lightly as it can be quite debilitating. However, effective treatment options are available and early intervention increases the probability of a favorable outcome.