Bursitis in a hip can be one of the most annoying and painful conditions you will ever experience. Because most normal everyday activities require walking, your hip gets lot of use and it can be hard to give it a rest so things can heal. One positive thing you can do is hip bursitis exercises, which will help strengthen the muscles in the hip area as well as gently stretch them. First things first, however. Let’s take a look at what’s causing the pain in the first place.
What is Bursitis?
A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac near a joint that helps cushion and protect the area when it is moving. Bursitis occurs when that sac of fluid becomes inflamed and no longer provides the needed cushioning for the joint. Normally, a healthy bursa will keep the muscles and tendons around a joint from rubbing directly over bone, and therefore the associated movement of arms, knees, legs, etc. is smooth and painless. When the bursa is inflamed, that same movement will be painful and the muscles and tendons actually cause aggravation of the problem and even more inflammation.
Causes of Bursitis
Pressure on the joint area along with repetitive movement is one of the main causes of hip bursitis, or bursitis of any joint, for that matter. As you can probably imagine, the knees and elbows are the two most commonly affected areas where bursitis occurs. A traumatic injury may also cause bursitis. Even after the injury has healed, the area where the bursa rests may no longer be large enough for the fluid filled sac, and so any movement results in irritation of the bursa and eventual inflammation. Sometimes poor body mechanics can also lead to this painful condition. Chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid artiritis can also be one of the causes of bursitis. Anyone carrying extra weight may also be prone to developing bursitis on the weight-bearing joints because of the extra pressure on them.
Anatomy of a Hip
The hip is one of the largest, strongest joints in the body but that doesn’t make it immune to bursitis of the hip. Take a look at this diagram of the hip:
There are two main bursae in the hip area, as you can see. They prevent several very large, strong muscles including the gluteus minumus and the gluteus medius from rubbing on the bone in the joint, so these muscles should be gently stretched in order to help prevent hip bursitis and to help the area heal after it has occurred. The bursae cover the areas of the femur called greater trochanter, and so you may hear this type of bursitis called trochanteric bursitis.
It is important to note that before beginning any treatment or exercise routine for bursitis, you should have it looked at by your doctor to make sure that the area is not actually infected. If it is, then antibiotics may have to be prescribed in order to get the area to heal. After you have ascertained that there is no infection, just inflammation, you can then follow your doctor’s advice, which will probably include some or all of the following:
- Resting the area until severe pain subsides
- Icing the area to reduce swelling
- Elevating the area to promote circulation
- Anti-inflammatory and/or pain medication
- Massage therapy
- Stretching exercises
- One thing keep in mind is that wrapping or using a compression bandage is not a good idea with bursitis; the extra compression can make things worse, since compression and too much friction in the area is what caused the condition in the first place.
Trochanteric Bursitis Exercises
Always begin slowly when you start any exercise regimen. If you get a recommendation from your doctor to do 5 repetitions of a certain movement, don’t think to yourself, “Hmmmm…if five is good, then 10 will be even better, and this will heal up twice as fast.” It doesn’t work that way, unfortunately.
Here is one of the best exercises for bursitis in the hip, because it stretches the muscles around the joint and keeps them from putting so much pressure on the area:
- Lie flat on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor or bed.
- Lift your right foot up and cross it in front of your left knee so that the inner thigh and inner calf of your right leg are facing you.
- Grab the right leg just above the ankle and pull it toward you. Make sure you keep your back on the floor or bed. Hold this stretch for 10-15 seconds. Return both feet to floor or bed.
- Repeat w/ left leg, holding stretch for 10-15 seconds.
- Repeat with right leg, only hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds.
- Repeat w/ left leg, hold for 15-30 seconds.
- Release stretch, return both feet to the floor, rest for several seconds before getting up.
Tip: You can vary the stretch on the second round by reaching through your legs and pulling the thigh gently back with both hands, instead of pulling the crossed leg back.
If you feel any pain in the hip area when doing the exercise, don’t keep doing the exercise. You may need to start with doing the exercise only once on each side every day for a week, then increasing the repetitions as you go along. Be safe, don’t force any movement that feels uncomfortable at this point.
Another good exercise for hip bursitis is this:
- Lie on your side, bringing your knees slightly up towards your chest. Make sure you are not leaning forward or backward at all – your hips should be perpendicular to the floor
- Lift your upper leg slowly, keeping your ankles touching. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Repeat on the other side with the other leg.
This exercise will gently stretch and strengthen the hip, thigh and butt muscles, helping to keep excess pressure off of the bursae in the hips.
Those of you who suffer from this type of pain may find that doing some of the things you love like taking a long walk on the beach are difficult to do. With some persistence and gentle stretching exercises like the ones above, you just may find yourself back on that beach or favorite woodsy path sooner than you think!
Remember, always check with your doctor before you begin any exercise routine.