The hips hold the largest and strongest joints in the body and tend to take a beating with constant use. We run, jump, bend, and lift weights - even sitting for long periods can lead to injury in the hip joints.
Bursitis is one of the most common issues doctors and coaches see in the hip area. It can last from weeks to several months (or even years in some cases!) if not treated properly.
We're here to teach you a bit more about this condition and how to prevent and heal hip bursitis by exercising for hip pain 2-3 times a week.
What is Hip Bursitis?
Hip Bursitis is an inflammation of the 'cushion' in your hip joint, and it can range from slight discomfort to intense pain. Your hips contain a fluid-filled bursa sac on either side, which acts as a shock absorber (like a pillow) between your bones and connective tissues. The fluid sac helps to reduce joint friction and provides cushioning for your bones.
This sac can become inflamed and swollen with constant use or traumatic injury. That's why hip bursitis is a common condition in walkers, cyclers, and runners. Those types of movement are a recipe for wearing down or irritating the joint between the constant pavement pounding, muscle imbalances, and poor running form.
Bursitis can also be caused by arthritis, muscle tears, or other pre-existing health conditions.
Bursitis can be acute (experienced for a short time) or chronic (lasting longer).
All of your joints (hips, shoulders, knees, heels, and elbows) contain these sacs, so this condition is not limited to just your hips.
Hip Bursitis Symptoms
Symptoms of Hip Bursitis can vary from person to person. If you have Hip Bursitis, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Tenderness or pain in the hip area (mainly to the touch)
- Hip pain that increases in severity with prolonged activity
- Sharp hip pain that often becomes a dull ache over time
- Swelling, redness, or warmth along the outer hip area
- Pain that is worse in the morning or develops slowly throughout the day
If you feel that you may have Hip Bursitis, you should see your doctor for a proper examination and diagnosis. If you have swelling and redness, it could be a sign of infection, and you need to see a doctor ASAP before the condition worsens.
What exercises should you not do with Hip Bursitis?
If you're suffering from Hip Bursitis, there are a few types of exercise you will want to avoid to give your hip the time to heal and allow any inflammation to subside.
First, you will want to avoid high-impact activities like running and jumping. These activities put undue strain on your hip joint and can cause severe pain.
You will also want to avoid any weight-bearing exercises while the hip is inflamed. Putting weight on your joints irritates the bursa sac further and can prolong the injury. Activities to avoid: running, walking, stair climbing, upright cycling, and weightlifting exercises that put pressure on the hips.
How long does it take to heal Hip Bursitis?
Healing time for Hip Bursitis varies greatly depending on the severity of the symptoms and activity level during healing.
If you have acute Hip Bursitis with mild inflammation you may begin to see improvement within a few weeks to a few months.
For chronic Hip Bursitis or more severe inflammation, it may take a bit longer to heal. With proper exercises and physical therapy, you should see improvement in several months.
Most importantly, you want to be sure to avoid exercises that will provoke the condition further, as this can lengthen the healing time significantly. We know that it can be tough to take time off and rest when you are committed to a training program. Think of the long run: a short term sacrifice will get you back into action much more quickly than trying to tough it out and persist through pain.
Is exercise good for Hip Bursitis?
We've mentioned what exercises you should avoid if you're experiencing Hip Bursitis pain - but what exercises should you do?
Exercise is an excellent way to strengthen the hip muscles to help prevent bursitis from happening in the first place. Stronger muscles will be better able to support your joints, which minimizes the risk and helps reduce joint pain.
- As for what types of exercise to do while suffering from Hip Bursitis, you should focus on doing Hip Bursitis stretches several times a week to loosen up tight, painful hip muscles and allow for better healing.
- Once your Hip Bursitis has mostly or entirely healed, you can start to incorporate gentle strengthening exercises for your hips.
What exercises help Hip Bursitis?
We've compiled 5 exercises to help control and relieve your symptoms of hip bursitis. These moves are gentle enough to practice daily and can be used as preventative stretches even when your bursitis symptoms have subsided.
Try these exercises out on their own, and once you've mastered your form, add a hip circle around your thighs to increase the strength gains. Physiotherapists have long used resistance bands to help rehabilitate hip bursitis and other injuries. The bands are proven to build more strength and decrease the chances of injury than using bodyweight alone.
1. Hip Stretch with Lumbar Rotation (Left Side)
- Lie flat on your back on an exercise or yoga mat. Bend your knees and place the soles of both feet on the ground.
- Place both arms out to the side, making your body into a 'T' position.
- Twist your knees and feet 45° to the left side until you feel a stretch in your right hip.
- Hold this position for 15 seconds, and return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the right side to stretch out the left hip.
2. Standing ITB Stretch
- Stand with your right side beside a stable object, like a table. Place your right hand on the table.
- Cross your left foot directly behind and around your right.
- Lift your left arm up and over your body, toward the table. Keep your posture tall; don't let your upper body crunch into your hips.
- Hold the stretch for 15 seconds. Return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the left side.
3. 4-Point Hip Abduction Exercise
- Kneel into a tabletop position on an exercise mat. Keep knees directly under the hips and wrists directly under your shoulders. The sides of your feet should be touching each other.
- Lift your left knee 45° out to the side while keeping the left foot touching the right.
- Hold for 1 second, and return to the starting position.
- Repeat 15 times and then switch sides.
4. 4-Point Hip Extension Exercise
- Kneel into a tabletop position on an exercise mat. Keep knees directly under the hips and wrists directly under your shoulders.
- Lift your left knee and leg straight up behind you. Keep a 90° bend in your knee. Focus on activating the bottom of the glutes.
- Return to starting position.
- Repeat 15 times, and then switch sides.
5. Bridging Exercise
- Lie on your back on an exercise mat. Place your feet on the floor and bend your knees.
- Tilt your pelvis under and contract your abdominals.
- Lift your bum off of the ground, keeping your hips in line with your shoulders and knees.
- Hold for 2 seconds and return to starting position.
- Repeat 15 times.
How to Ease Hip Bursitis Pain After Exercising
We recommend these Hip Bursitis treatment and recovery activities:
- REST. Ensure that you give adequate rest to the hips and try to keep your hips elevated often, by resting in a lying position.
- ICE. Apply ice to the hip region every 4-5 hours for a 20 minute period to reduce swelling and inflammation.
- ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS. If the flare-up is severe you can take over-the-counter pain medication for pain control and inflammation reduction.
You are sure to find instant relief from your Hip Bursitis by using these 5 exercises. Remember to rest after any exercise by icing the areas you work out, especially the hips. For symptoms that are persistent, please always go see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and next steps of care.