What is Greater Trochanteric Bursitis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 19 December 2019
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Greater trochanteric bursitis is an inflammation of a fluid-filled sac known as the bursa that covers the greater trochanter, the protuberance that juts out from the hip bone. It causes hip pain and stiffness, and may make it difficult for a patient to walk comfortably. Treatments usually involve resting to give the hip a chance to heal, and medications to reduce the inflammation. Patients may need surgery in extreme cases, but this is relatively unusual.

The bursa acts as a shock absorber and cushion for the joint. Many joints in the body including the elbow, knee, and shoulder also have a bursa. Fluid inside provides lubrication to allow the joint to move comfortably and protect it from jarring impacts. When inflammation occurs, the bursa swells, causing pain and discomfort. Tendons and other structures in the area may develop strain, and the soft tissue will become hot, tender, and swollen. Chronic inflammation can lead to permanent joint damage and it is important to thoroughly treat greater trochanteric bursitis.


People can develop greater trochanteric bursitis in a number of ways. A common cause is an injury, which may be the result of athletics, a fall, or strain while trying to move something or jump over an obstacle. Surgery can be a cause, as can chronic stress like bad posture. Patients will notice some pain and tenderness, and a doctor should be able to palpate the hip and feel a sore spot. The doctor may also request X-rays of the hip to check for any problems with the bone, such as bony outgrowths caused by chronic irritation.

Rest to keep weight off the hip and allow the swelling to reduce is advisable. Patients may need to use crutches while their hips heal and can benefit from time in bed as well. Anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful, and in severe cases, a doctor may offer steroid injections directly into the hip to bring the swelling down quickly. Some patients also need analgesia to help them with the pain while they recover from greater trochanteric bursitis. Once the hip heals completely, physical therapy can be helpful for rebuilding strength in the joint and preventing future injuries.

If the greater trochanteric bursitis does not respond to treatment, a doctor may have to consider more aggressive and invasive measures. Sometimes, surgery is necessary, usually in cases where the patient's condition is related to an underlying medical problem, rather than being a standalone issue.



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