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The hip is a highly mobile ball-and-socket joint. The ball-shaped top of the thigh bone (femur) fits snugly into a curved dish-like area of the pelvis called the acetabulum. This joint is cushioned by several small fluid-filled sacs, or bursae. Bursae also reduce friction between bone, skin, and tendons (strong bands connecting muscle to bone). Hip bursitis and tendonitis occurs when the bursae and tendons become irritated and inflamed.

What causes the condition?
Frequently, hip bursitis and tendonitis result from overuse and excessive stress on the joint. When the muscles and tendons are overworked and damaged, they can rub the bursae, which then become irritated and fill with fluid. Several factors may contribute to this inflammatory process:

  • Direct injury, such as a backwards fall or a blow to the joint
  • Activities that require repeated and prolonged use of the hip joint, such as cycling
  • Joint disease that affects the structure of the area (rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Poor pelvic alignment
  • Leg length differences
  • Weakness in the hip muscles
  • Aging process, as tendons lose their elasticity
  • Sitting for prolonged periods on a hard surface

What are the symptoms?
Joint pain is the primary sign of hip bursitis and tendonitis. The pain may extend along the outer portion of the upper thigh. The discomfort worsens with activities requiring hip movement including walking, running, and climbing stairs.

How is it diagnosed?
Consult with your doctor regarding your condition. Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and examine your hip.

What are the treatment options?
Conservative treatment usually includes a period of rest and reduced activity for the affected hip. If the inflamed bursa is near the surface of the skin, ice and heat may be used to decrease swelling and pain. Your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medications to further reduce symptoms.

For more severe cases, your doctor may advise a steroid injection. The shot places medication directly in the painful area to ease pain and bring down the swelling. You may also be referred for physical and/or occupational therapy for specialized rehabilitation programs. Surgery is recommended in rare instances.

How can I prevent hip bursitis and tendonitis?
The key to preventing the condition is to listen to your body and rest the hip joint when needed. Avoid activities that required prolonged periods of standing. Use good body mechanics to keep your joints in proper alignment. Alternate tasks and athletic activities in order to avoid repeated use of the hip and lower back muscles. Remember to strengthen and stretch these muscles as part of your exercise routine. Healthy muscles are less likely to become strained or cause wearing of the bursae.