Trochanteric bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa, a fluid filled sack that is located on the great trochanter of the femur, beneath the tendons and muscles of the buttocks.
Trochanteric bursitis is a disease mostly caused by the friction to the bursa that is located between the great trochanter (the side tip of the femur) and the iliotibial band (tendon) that runs along the external thigh. Numerous gluteal muscles insert at the great trochanter. They are used for activities such as walking, running, climbing and jumping. In particular the contraction of the gluteus maximus, which is attached to the iliotibial band, exerts a significant pressure to the bursa as it forces the sliding of the band around the great trochanter. Weakness of the gluteus medius may also lead to the irritation of the bursa. This pathology is frequent in older individuals and athletes due to muscles weakness and repetitive activities that pose a strong pressure on the bursa. In elderly individuals the iliotibial band can become tight causing pressure on the bursa, thus triggering its inflammation and swelling. A trauma to the hip side may also provoke bleeding and formation of a haematoma within the bursa, leading to inflammation, thickening of the bursal capsule and trochanteric bursitis.
There is a number of causes leading to trochanteric bursitis but in some cases the origin of the disease is unknown. These are:
Lack of training, muscle weakness
Leg length discrepancy
Leading risk factors for a trochanteric bursitis include:
Excessive or inadequate training
Elderly age predisposed to falls
Runners (especially on hard surface)
Previous hip replacement or other hip surgeries
The most frequent symptoms of trochanteric bursitis are:
Pain to the lateral hip side (initially)
Pain radiating along the outer thigh up to the knee (when chronic)
Pain when touching the bursa
Pain when sleeping on the side
Stiffness of the hip joint
Difficulty in walking, limp
Weakness of the lower limbs
Clinical examination begins with medical history to acquire information on injuries or activities that may have caused a trochanteric bursitis. Usually medical examination is sufficient to confirm the diagnosis. An MRI or ultrasound may reveal the characteristics of the bursitis prior to local injections of drugs or surgical removal. X-ray imaging is only performed to rule out any degenerative changes of the hip bone and joint that may contribute to the symptoms.
Injection of anaesthetics (novocaine) into the bursa is an additional method for the diagnosis, whereby cessation of pain confirms a trochanteric bursitis.
Management of trochanteric bursitis begins with conservative treatment, which is mostly successful although with a lengthy prognosis. This approach involves:
Anti-inflammatory therapy with NSADs
Local injection of steroids
Reduction of physical activity and extreme sport
Surgery is recommended only rarely when a chronic bursitis fails to resolve with conservative treatment. Different methods are available that vary between open surgery and less invasive arthroscopic surgery. The ultimate goal is the removal of the inflamed, sclerotic bursa and excise any bone spurs that may have formed. The surgeon may choose to lengthen the tendon of the gluteus maximus that has caused the pathology or remove part of the tendon covering the bursa to prevent local frictions and recidivism of the pathology.
Physical therapy is mostly successful in resolving trochanteric bursitis. It focuses on restoring the flexibility of the iliotibial tendon and strengthening the gluteal and thigh muscles. The prognosis is usually between 4 and 8 weeks although it may take longer particularly in older patients or after surgery. Physiotherapy treatment includes:
Antiinflammatory therapy (NSAIDs)
Use of crutches (after surgery)
Activity modifying regime
Return to activity plan
A trochanteric bursitis is prevented by adhering to a number of recommendations:
Maintain muscular strength of the hip muscles, pelvic muscles and buttocks
Maintain flexibility muscles and tendons of hip and glutei
Improve mobility of the hip joint
Reduce extreme sport
Avoid hard surfaces when jogging
Wearing orthotics to reduce leg length discrepancy
Modify daily habits to prevent falls