Hip bursitis is an irritating condition that can range from slightly bothersome to very painful. If you feel hip pain when you are lying in bed at night, or immediately when you stand up after sitting for a while, you might have hip bursitis.
Let’s explore this physical condition and look at the best exercises to treat hip bursitis so you can start feeling better soon.
What Is Hip Bursitis?
Bursitis is an inflammation of the fluid filled bursa sac which causes hip pain. A bursa sac is a small, gel-like pillow that sits between your bones and their connective tissues, acting as sort of shock absorber. You have bursa sacs in your hips, shoulders, elbows, knees and heels.
The bursa can become injured through a fall or strained by repeat use. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, two major bursae in the hip can become injured or inflamed. The more common of the two, Trochanteric Bursitis, is inflammation to the bursa covering the greater trochanter, which sits at the bony point of the hip bone. The other bursa located on the inside of the hip near the groin is called the iliopsoas bursa. When this area becomes inflamed or injured it is often called “hip bursitis.” Both are treated in a similar way.
The symptoms of hip bursitis vary from person to person, but the most common are:
- Hip pain that is sharp at first and then becomes aching over time
- Hip tenderness which seems more generalized in the entire hip area
- Pain that gets worse after prolonged or repetitive activity
- Leg pain that extends from the hip down the side or back of the leg
- Pain or discomfort when climbing stairs, running or cycling.
Important note: if you have warmth and redness in the area along with fever or illness, you could have septic bursitis which comes from infection. Be sure to see your doctor!
What Causes Hip Bursitis?
There are a number of things that can cause bursitis of the hips, from a direct fall to running too many miles. Let’s take a look at some of those things that put you at risk.
- Injury: A traumatic injury or fall can cause hip bursitis.
- Repetitive Motion: You are at risk for bursitis if you do too much running, standing, bicycling or stair climbing.
- Leg-Length Inequality: Believe it or not, a surprising number of people have one leg that is slightly shorter than another (1.5 cm or more). This can affect your gait, causing issues similar to the repetitive use problem resulting in bursitis.
- Arthritis: Bursitis can come from arthritis. The same inflammation that comes with arthritis can extend into the bursa.
- Spine Diseases: Conditions like scoliosis can cause problems with the movement pattern of your hips and play a role in bursitis.
- Prior Surgery: Like spine diseases, prior surgeries such as implants or hip replacements can throw off your gait and movement patterns creating inflammation.
Related: How To Treat Hip Pain
Best Exercises For Hip Bursitis
It is always important to see a doctor in order to diagnose any condition and know the details needed to fix the origins of your pain. However, specific hip strengthening exercises can help fortify the muscles surrounding the waist and pelvis, and stretches can open up tight and painful areas of the pelvis like the iliotibial band. A daily stretching practice that you can easily repeat will protect the health of your hips and entire body. Many of these moves require no equipment, while a few of them require a resistance band to do the trick.
Here are nine exercises you can do at home to treat your bursitis and work your whole body:
1. Glute Bridge
Reps: 10-12. Hold for 3 seconds at the top, lower slowly to flat on the floor.
This exercise engages your glutes, hamstrings, quads and pelvis. In addition, you’ll feel a stretch and open the hips flexors and front of the body overall.
2. Fire Hydrant
Reps: 10-12 per side
The fire hydrant might look weird, but it’s an important exercise for tackling the piriformis muscle and strengthening the pelvic joint as a whole. Unweighted, this exercise can be done by anyone and is great for increasing your range of motion.
Equipment: Resistance Band
Repetitions 10-12 per leg
Many of the moves that tackle our glutes can also put excessive stress on our hips. This gives you an opportunity to isolate the glutes alone. (Be sure you don’t pull the knee in too far after pressing back; knee under the hips is the start and end position.)
Equipment: Resistance Band
Repetitions: 16-20 total: 8-10 per side, alternating.
Your abductors (outer thighs) need work in order to balance out the strength of the entire pelvic area. This exercise will take care of that and build strength in the leg and core muscles as well.
Repetitions: Hold for 30 seconds each side
Isometric strength moves are extremely important for building strength and stability. The forearm side plank exercise strengthens the outer side of the obliques.
Repetitions: Hold for 30 seconds on each side
This stretch opens up the piriformis. This can also be a great iliotibial band stretch and activation for each side.
Repetitions: Hold for 30 seconds to 60 seconds
Open up your inner thighs and activate your hip and leg muscles with the amazing stretch position.
Repetitions: Hold 30-60 seconds
This is a great position to also add to the end of any workout. This is another IT band stretch and hip activating movement.
9. Inner Thigh Squeeze
Equipment: small pilates ball, volleyball or rolled up towel
Lie on your back with your feet in the air and knees bent, pull your low abs in so your lower back is gently pressing into the floor. Now squeeze the ball or towel tightly between your knees as you pull your belly in at the same time. This move strengthens the adductors (inner thighs) which are typically weak and adding to dysfunctional pelvic movement.
Note: If this bothers your flexors, it can be done with feet flat on the floor and knees bent.
Is Walking Good for Hip Bursitis?
If you are suffering from hip bursitis, definitely avoid high-impact activities like running and jumping. Walking is a better choice because it’s low impact and easier on the joints. But it is repetitive. Therefore, to make sure you don’t make your pain worse, we recommend you connect with a doctor or physical therapist that can assess your situation. A medical professional can develop the best treatment approach so you can avoid further damage.
Final Step: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate (RICE)
You’ve probably been told to do this for an ankle sprain or a bruise on your shin. Bursitis is the same, although compression may not be possible and elevating might also be difficult. It is very important to rest the injured area until you don’t have pain. In other words, if running too many miles is the cause of your issue, continuing to run will only aggravate your muscles. To avoid more problems, the best treatment is rest, ice, compress, elevate, and repeat.
In addition, ice the affected area a few times a day to help relieve inflammation and take anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or naproxen. Once you return to activity you may need to modify what you were doing. For instance, run on a flat, even surface for a while.
Hip Pain Is Not Inevitable
True wellness is having little to no pain, so you can enjoy activities and feel free to stretch and move your body every day. Treating bursitis with the proper stretches is great, but you should always get a medical opinion if pain of any kind doesn’t go away.
Above all, if you have hip pain that is persistent or unbearable, please see your doctor or get a physical therapist involved. A physical therapist will specialize in creating strengthening exercises and a treatment approach that will relieve your specific hip pain.