Trochanteric bursitis can be seen in all people and not just athletes. Females, especially athletic ones, often get it, and it is unfortunately not uncommon in female runners. Trochanteric bursitis manifests as pain on the outside (lateral side) of the hip. It is painful at the bony prominence on the outside of the hip where the iliotibial band runs over the greater trochanter.

Signs and symptoms of trochanteric bursitis

Patients with trochanteric bursitis notice pain that comes on over time rather than with a specific event. A runner will typically notice a pain that significantly limits her ability to run due to this pain, and occasionally it will progress to limit daily activities. The pain is usually specifically located at this bony prominence.

In the office, a sports medicine physician will usually be able to diagnose this problem by physical exam alone. The patient will have noticeable tenderness to palpation along the bursa just outside of the greater trochanter. Usually hip range of motion, strength of the muscles around the hips, and signs of other problems are unremarkable. X-rays are usually normal, and more advanced imaging is not usually ordered.

Location of hip pain from trochanteric bursitis
The patient points to the classic point of tenderness with trochanteric bursitis (white circle).

Treatment of trochanteric bursitis

Treatment is almost always nonsurgical. Rest or avoiding activities can be helpful, but occasionally symptoms persist for long periods of time. Stretching exercises and physical therapy with modalities can be helpful. Adjusting athletic activities to limit the amount of pain in this area can also be helpful, although some activities such as running can be difficult if symptoms persist. Occasionally injection of cortisone into the trochanteric bursa can be helpful. Very rarely surgery to remove the bursa can be attempted, but even surgery does not always relieve symptoms. If symptoms are not improving, looking for another source for the athlete’s pain is warranted.

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