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Fact checked by Kirsten Yovino, CPT Brookbush InstituteFACT CHECKED
Updated On: February 19, 2023
Experiencing hip bursitis pain is no fun. It's like trying to run with a pressure that continues to build the further you go. You can't just work through it, and ignoring it certainly won't make it go away. Instead, follow the information in this article as we'll tell you exactly what to do if you ever experience hip bursitis.
This includes the best stretches to perform to help relieve a painful hip. We'll also provide the most effective exercises to mitigate the symptoms of hip bursitis, which when done proactively, can even help prevent it altogether.
This article will discuss:
Hip bursitis, also known as greater trochanteric pain syndrome or trochanteric bursitis, is a painful condition that occurs from inflammation of the bursae in the hip joint.
The bursa is a tiny fluid-filled sac that's filled with synovial fluid. In fact, there are around 150-160 bursae located within the human body. These bursae are located in areas where the bone comes in contact with muscles or tendons to create a slippery surface.
However, when bursae become infected, they create too much pressure on the joint structure. As a result, the joint cannot function normally, causing movement discomfort.
There are actually two different bursae in the hip joint that can cause pain.
The first is located on the greater trochanter. The greater trochanter is located on the superior end of the femur, near the femur head (a large round structure that makes up the "ball" of a ball-in-socket joint). It sits on the lateral side of the thigh and is responsible for hip bursitis pain.
The iliopsoas bursa is another bursa of the hip. It's located on the inner thighs near the groin area. Pain with the iliopsoas bursa is less common.
There is no single cause for hip bursitis. The primary cause is the hip joint being damaged, yet this can occur in multiple ways. Some common things that can cause damage to the hip joint are:
Regardless of what the cause is, the result is the same. When the hip joint experiences excessive stress, the bursae eventually become inflamed. What once acted as lubricant has now tightened the hip joint, creating excessive pressure on the muscles, bones, and nerves.
The end result is dull pain in the hip joint that worsens as you continue to exercise. At this point, hip strengthening exercises and stretching become necessary to help alleviate the issue.
Generally, hip bursitis feels like a deep, dull pain that gradually worsens. However, the pain is generally mild.
While this may seem good, the mild nature of hip bursitis can cause people to ignore it and push on with their normal cardio and workout split, eventually causing the underlying issue to worsen.
It's important to note that some people will also report a quick sharp pain instead.
If you are already experiencing significant hip bursitis, stretches, low-intensity exercises, and low impact workouts should become your new best friend to help alleviate the issue.
If after a few weeks no improvement is seen after performing these stretches and strengthening exercises, you may need to see a physical therapist for follow-up care.
The hip rotator stretch is extremely simple to perform and does a great job of loosening the hips.
How to do the Hip Rotator Stretch:
Sometimes called the iliotibial band stretch, you can either perform this standing up, which requires more balance, sitting on the ground, or lying down similar to the hip rotator stretch.
How to do the Figure 4 Stretch:
Straight leg raises are more of a hip mobility or activation exercise, but it serves all purposes. This stretch will target your abductor muscles on the outer thighs.
Again, to perform this movement, you just need your body. You can also use a resistance band to train the abductors as well.
How to do Straight Leg Raises:
Clamshells look similar to straight leg raises, except they're going to stretch the hip abductors. Try adding a resistance band to make this move more challenging.
How to perform Clamshells:
The above stretches should be plenty to stretch and activate your hips. Once ready, you must start incorporating strength exercises to keep your hip joint solid. Start each exercise slowly so you don't do too much too fast.
Here are the best exercises to keep hip bursitis at bay. Remember that if you start to feel more pain, stop immediately and reassess.
Hip bridges are an easy and effective way to start building strength in your muscles. They can be done with bodyweight only to focus on hip extension. However, you may also use a resistance band or medicine ball to train your hip abductors and adductors.
If you opt for a resistance band, wrap it around the lower thigh muscles before starting the exercise. If you choose the medicine ball, with your knees bent, place it between them. Focus on squeezing the ball as you perform your hip extension.
How to do Hip Bridges:
The single-leg glute bridge is performed similarly, except you only use one leg. This minor change completely changes the dynamics of the exercise, including muscles used and activation.
Because you are on one leg, a more significant load is placed on the stabilizer muscles around the hip joint to keep it steady. This is exactly what you want to prevent hip bursitis, making this one of the best hip bursitis exercises around.
How to do Single Leg Hip Bridges:
Hip abduction (thigh moving away from the body) is a common hip movement. Hip abductor exercises such as this one can effectively be done with a cable machine.
How to do Cable Hip Abduction:
Hip adduction exercises involve the thigh moving across the body. This is another great exercise to perform using a cable machine.
How to do Cable Hip Adduction:
How to perform a Hip Thrust:
Squats are a great exercise to train the entire hip joint. To optimize these, go as low as you can with good form. Using a larger range of motion can ensure the hip is strengthened in all positions.
How to do Deep Squats:
As with all injuries, the best method to treat hip bursitis is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Here are some tips to help you avoid hip bursitis altogether.
Your primary concern when preventing hip bursitis is increasing your hip muscle's muscular strength. This means strengthening all of your hip and leg muscles.
The overuse and trauma that causes hip bursitis result from excessive jarring and twisting. To prevent this from happening, build iron hips that withstand these forces.
It's important to note that the hip is an extremely complex joint, with many researchers identifying at least 17 hip muscles while others note 21 or more. The good thing is that many of these work together, so you don't need to perform 21 different exercises.
Your goal when training for hip strength is to exercise them through multiple movement patterns and angles.
Following an exercise program built for your specific circumstances is a must. This is why speaking to a qualified trainer is important. If the situation warrants it, seeking healthcare professional medical advice is also a good choice.
Building muscle the fastest shouldn't be the only variable your program considers. It should also identify any mobility issues, work around injuries, and include proper exercise selection.
If you are new to training in any sport, we highly recommend you get professional help at the beginning of your journey.
Good form goes a long way in preventing hip bursitis and other overuse injuries. Correct body position and biomechanics of an exercise have been identified to improve your performance and prevent injury. This includes using a full range of motion. Also make sure to exercise slowly to ensure you're using good form.
While a minor error one time won't make a huge difference, the accumulation of a joint being out of place over and over will.
When we use the term "slowly," we refer to numerous aspects of lifting. This could include not jumping into exercises you're not ready for.
But. the main aspect to consider here involves progression. Hip bursitis arises from too much exercise or a heavy load or volume accumulation.
The human body is extremely smart and can adapt to its stresses. In fact, that's the basic tenet of progressive overload.
However, for this to work, you need to apply minimal increments over time. This allows the muscle to heal and the tendons and ligaments that hold the joint together to recover.
Hip bursitis results from overuse and repetitive movements, so be smart about any nagging issues. In other words, as soon as you start to feel that dull, achy sensation in your joint, stop what you're doing!
This doesn't mean you need to go get in bed and ice your hips for days, but you must stop whatever exercise aggravates your joint.
Again, you can not just "walk it off." Once hip bursitis begins to develop, it will continue to get worse.
Above, we had already mentioned that you need to stop what you're doing if you feel hip bursitis developing. However, you can still do something else that doesn't cause hip pain.
It's difficult to suggest what exercises to do as everyone's case is different. However, here are some tips when training with hip bursitis.
And to reiterate, if you have doubts, see a healthcare professional or physical therapist before exercising.
Hip bursitis definitely isn't the worse ailment you can suffer from, and it's relatively common. However, to prevent the need for steroid injections or visits to physical therapists, take care of your hips. This means training them appropriately while not placing too much stress on them.
Follow the guidelines in this article and if you still have lingering questions, remember one of our favorite sayings, "Strong things don't break." Focus on building up your hip, so you don't need to worry about them breaking down.
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