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Hip Pain, Bursitis, and Athletes

There is no one part of the body that contributes so much to an athlete’s strength, balance, and speed than the hips. The hips are quite literally the foundation upon which an athlete builds their strength. Healthy hips are essential to a successful career in sports.

Competitive athlete or not, an injured hip means activities that are typically taken for granted, such as simply squatting or bending down, become painful or outright impossible.

Nobody knows this better than Dr. Haleem Chaudhary, a joint expert at Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. Dr. Chaudhary is a fellowship-trained joint reconstruction expert who replaces hundreds of hips each year. He fully understands the impact of a bursitis on athletes, especially collegiate and professional athletes.

This article provides information that will help you identify the signs and symptoms of bursitis as well as conservative forms of treatment.

What are Bursae?

Bursae are fluid-filled sacs located in joints. Bursae act as gliding surfaces to reduce friction between moving bones. They can be found in the body wherever there is a joint.

There are 4 bursae on each side of the hip, but this article will only focus on the 2 major ones: the trochanteric (located on the outside point of the hip) and iliopsoas bursae (located on the inside of the hip near the groin).

Bursitis occurs when bursa become inflamed, infected, and painful.

Symptoms of Bursitis

Deep, aching pain located:

  • In the hip/outer thigh
  • Over the outside of the hip/thigh
  • On one side of the groin

Hip pain that becomes worse when:

  • Lying on one’s side
  • Exercising
  • Pressing on the hip
  • Pressing on the groin
  • Rising from a deep sitting position, such as when exiting a car
  • Hips are stiff
  • Walking up stairs

What Causes Bursitis?

The most common hip bursitis causes are:

  • A sudden hip injury or trauma, such as a fall
  • Repetitive pressure on the hip, such as when running
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Muscle imbalances that put too much pressure on one side of the hip

Bursitis is most likely to result from a sudden injury or repetitive pressure, especially among athletes.

Nonsurgical Treatments

Occasionally, bursitis requires a surgery where the doctor makes an incision and cuts away part of the swollen bursa. Most of the time, however, nonsurgical treatments are effective. The following is a list of treatments for bursitis.

Rest

As many cases of bursitis are caused by overworking/overtraining, rest is both a simple and effective solution. Oftentimes, the condition will go away on its own. Once bursitis has healed, athletes will have to take extra care not to overwork themselves in order to avoid repeat episodes of inflammation.

Ice Only

For bursitis pain that has begun in the past 24 hours, athletes can apply ice to the afflicted area for 15 minutes at a time. After an hour has passed, ice can be applied for another 15 minutes.

Do not apply ice directly to the skin, as this can cause frostbite. Instead, cover the ice or ice pack in a towel before applying to the skin.

Ice and Moist Heat

For bursitis pain that has been present for 48 hours or more, alternate ice packs and moist heat. Apply ice for 15 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of moist heat using a wet towel. You may utilize this method once or twice a day.

Moist heat is preferred over dry heat because it penetrates deeper than dry heat and has been shown to provide more relief from bursitis pain.

Avoid Acid-forming Foods

Bursitis that lasts for months at a time (or even years) is may be caused by calcium deposits near joints. Eating foods that cause the body’s pH level to become more acidic will slow or prevent the build up of calcium deposits. These foods include:

  • Meat
  • Grains
  • Beans (Pinto, navy, mung, black, garbanzo, red, white, adzuki and broad beans)
  • Cheese
  • Most Nuts
  • Coffee
  • White Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) Supplements

DMSO, which is a clear, colorless liquid, is another way to treat bursitis. When applied as an ointment, DMSO passes through the skin and provides relief from pain and swelling. It is also available as an oral supplement.

What to Do After Recovery

Stretches

To help prevent future episodes of bursitis, athletes should stretch both before and after exercising. Stretching will loosen the muscles and decrease stress on the hips.

Gluteal Stretch

To perform this stretch, lie on your back with both knees bent. Bring one leg up and rest the top of the ankle just behind the knee of the opposite leg. Then, grasp the knee that is not bent and pull it towards your chest. Ideally, you will feel a stretch along the buttocks of the injured side and possibly along the outside of the hip. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Standing Iliotibial Band Stretch

Cross one leg in front of the other, then bend down and reach towards the inside of your back foot, making sure not to bend your knees.

Hold for 15-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Side-Leaning Iliotibial Band Stretch

Stand sideways near a wall, placing your hand on it for support. Place a hand on the wall for support. Cross the leg furthest from the wall over the other leg, making sure to keep the leg closest to the wall flat on the floor.

Next, lean your hips into the wall. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then switch sides if necessary.

Clam Exercise

Lie on one side with your knees bent and your feet together. You can put your arm under your head for support. Slowly, raise your top leg towards the ceiling while keeping your heels pressed together. Hold for 2 seconds then lower slowly. Do 2 sets of 15 reps.

Side Plank

Lie on your side with your arm at a 90º angle. Next, prop yourself up with your abs and hips, putting all of your weight on your forearm and ankles. Hold this position for at least 15 seconds, then slowly lower yourself back to the ground with your hips.

Forearm Plank

Lie on your stomach and rest all your weight on your forearms. With your legs straight, lift your hips off the floor until your body is as close to a straight line as you can get. Use your forearms and toes to support yourself and be sure to flex your abs. Hold for 15 seconds, then slowly lower yourself back to the ground.

Receive a Hip Examination

While this article provides a short list of treatments for bursitis, it is not a condition that you must treat on your own—you can turn to the experts at Beacon Orthopaedics for help. At Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, our mission is to help you live your healthiest life. Our staff of board certified orthopedists can accurately diagnose and treat hip bursitis, as well as other conditions, so you can continue an active lifestyle.

If you have experienced any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with Dr. Haleem Chaudhary at Beacon Orthopaedics. Dr. Chaudhary will ensure that your hips remain healthy for years to come.