Relief of Hip Bursitis
If you have bursitis you know the tender, swollen area is like a hot balloon that plagues your life and limits your movement. I have had chronic bursitis in my hips for years and have found some innovative ways to deal with it. Over time it has improved. These ideas are compiled from my own years of research, trial and error. You will not find this list compiled anywhere else. This is not info that is simply copied from other websites. If you need relief of hip bursitis, knee, shoulder, elbow or any other bursitis, please check out these methods, supplements and treatments.
First of All, How Do I Know I Have Bursitis?
Bursitis causes inflammation, tenderness and in some cases redness. When mild it could just cause tenderness with nothing visible. Moderate bursitis causes noticeable inflammation and can be an impediment to normal activities. Severe bursitis can cause dramatic swelling with the area becoming hot and red and the swollen area protruding so it is visible even when clothed.
What Are the Types of Hip Bursitis?
The most common form of bursitis in the hip is trochanteric bursitis. This is the form of bursitis I am referring to when I say “hip bursitis”. Trochanteric bursitis is the swelling of the trochanteric bursa which is located on the outermost part of the hip which is called the greater trochantar which is at the top of the femur bone. If you are not sure of this location, think of the widest part of your hip. With serious bursitis, the hip appears even larger and sticks out more to the side. With mild bursitis there will be tenderness but no visible change in size. Bursitis is variable however and during the course of the day or when the area is aggravated, the swelling can increase.
The Iliopsoas bursa is located in the groin area right at inside of your leg. This bursitis is less common than trochanteric bursitis.
The Ischial or Ischiogluteal bursa is located at the “sit bone” in the buttocks. If you have Ischial bursitis is can be painful to sit on hard surfaces or ride a bike. You can get extremely “saddle sore” if you have ischial bursitis.
Is It Bursitis or Arthritis?
It can be hard to tell the difference between arthritis and bursitis if you don’t have experience with them in the past. Some types of arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis can can cause inflammation and tenderness. It is best to get a diagnosis from a doctor if you are not sure which you have. With bursitis there isn’t generally pain in the joint itself but in the bursa which is located outside the joint. It can be hard to tell the difference however and arthritis can cause bursitis. Mild bursitis without a lot of swelling can be harder to differentiate from arthritis. The key symptom of severe bursitis is a balloon like swelling of the bursa. With hip bursitis this can cause a dramatic swelling on the outside of the hip that is so large it can be seen through clothing. Some websites will tell you that long lasting pain is arthritis since bursitis is always short lived. That is not true of chronic bursitis. That is the reason for this post. Chronic bursitis is poorly understood and often ignored so the advice found online is often incorrect.
What is Chronic Bursitis and Why Can’t My Doctor Treat It?
Bursitis is often dismissed as a common problem and not taken seriously. Doctors told me it would go away but I had it for years. Most bursitis is supposed to be acute (short term) but mine was chronic (long term). Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa which is a fluid filled sac that cushions the area near tendons and joints in the body. There are hundreds of bursas in the body so bursitis can occur all over from large joints to seemingly random places like the ‘sit bones’ that get irritated from riding a bike (Ischial bursitis) .
Septic and Aseptic Bursitis
Most bursitis is aseptic meaning caused by overuse or injury. Some bursitis can be septic meaning there is an infection. Septic bursitis may need to be treated with antibiotics and surgery or aspiration (draining the bursa). For this post we will just focus on the much more common aseptic bursitis which does not need surgical or antibiotic intervention.
Acute bursitis is usually caused by injury. Trauma such as falling on your hip could cause acute bursitis. Usually with proper rest and basic treatment such as icing and anti-inflammatories it will go away. Acute bursitis can also be caused by overuse or inflammation.
Chronic bursitis seems to be poorly understood by the medical community. It does not necessarily have a simple cause such as a specific injury. It can be caused by repetitive use of the joint and or an underlying inflammatory condition. There is no resolution of the condition in a short time and it is unknown how long it may go on. Some people have it for years or are prone to get it in different joints over time. This is because an underlying condition for inflammation exists in the body that allows bursitis to occur. Therefore it may be in a hip and later crop up in a knee, elbow or shoulder for no apparent reason. The location and severity can change over time.
There a few standard recommendations for medical treatment but they have drawbacks and side effects that may be worse in the end. I believe this is because the focus is on acute bursitis and the treatments for a short term condition are often not effective for a long- term chronic condition .
Why Common Treatments for Bursitis Don’t Work for Chronic Bursitis
Many doctor prescribed treatments for chronic bursitis don’t work because it is assumed to be acute. The cause of the condition is completely different in a body-wide inflammatory condition than an acute injury caused occurrence.
One common treatment for bursitis is a shot of cortisone in the affected bursa. This is a go-to procedure that you will see on many online sites and recommended by many doctors. This is supposed to fix the condition but in people with chronic bursitis, it may only help for a short time. Even if it could fix that case of bursitis you would need to get it redone every time the condition popped up in another joint. This is a painful, expensive and often pointless treatment for chronic bursitis anyway. In fact, cortisone injections can actually make the problem worse. I have read cases where people say it fixed their problem but it appears to me (in my non-medical opinion) most or all of those were acute cases. Many other accounts describe no help from cortisone injections or only a few weeks of help over years of suffering.
Why Can’t I Just Get A Cortisone Injection for Bursitis?
You certainly can. If it works for you, great! I would love to hear that you got relief. I have to admit I have not had a cortisone injection myself once I read about so many failures and learned about the side effects.
Cortisone injections can cause weakening of cartilage, tendon and bone (osteoporosis). Of course this risk is increased with repeated cortisone injections.
Cortisone can also cause raised blood sugar, weight gain, changes in mood and other serious conditions like Cushing’s Syndrome. The SoCal Regenerative Medical Clinic web page explains cortisone injection side effects. They offer new methods of treatment using stem cells and other modern options.
Another Treatment that Doctors may suggest is surgical removal of the bursa. This may work for some people but the problem is the bursa can just grow back. As with cortisone injections, if you have chronic bursitis, it could crop up in other joints over time. Surgical removal would only potentially help the location in which it was removed. You would probably not want to have multiple surgeries to remove multiple bursas over time, though I am sure someone has.
So How Can I Get Relief of Hip Bursitis and All Bursitis?
There are many possibly aids in getting relief of bursitis but here are the ones that I have found successful. This is NOT a complete list. Due to the root causes of inflammation being potentially large, there are many possible solutions as well. That is the good news!
I have tried the following methods with some success.
Ice and Gel Ice Packs
This is doctor recommended but they don’t do a good job of offering practical methods of applying it. Doctors may recommend holding a paper cup of ice (after you filled the cup with water and froze it solid) over the bursa. I am not joking. When a doctor recommenced this to me it sounded messy, wet and impractical. When I am at work how am I supposed to hold a wet, dripping paper cup of ice on my hip!
I use cold every single day for my bursitis and it is the single most effective method way to get relief. It is not the most practical but it can be implemented in many ways if you plan for it. For example, I sleep with cold gel packs under my hips (at the side where the bursa is located) every night. This combats the heat build up from the bed and blankets that trap your own body heat and aggravate a bursa. There are soft gel packs that don’t freeze solid and those that do freeze solid. The soft ones are flexible and very comfortable. You won’t even feel them there except for the soothing cold on your burning hips. The downside is the soft gel packs don’t stay cold as long as those that freeze solid. I have learned to use the solid ones but I lay them out in the freezer so they will freeze in a comfortable shape before they freeze. This takes a bit of practice but basically, I make sure they have a rounded depression and a sloping angle on the side that goes down to a fine edge that will comfortably fit under my hip. These will last most of the night. The same methods can be used for bursitis in the knee, elbow etc. If you don’t mind swapping them out you can use the soft ones that are more flexible.
You can get small gel ice packs to take with you during the day if you need them for sitting in a car seat or at work. For travel I am still learning what is allowed through airport security in this regard but you can use a zip lock bag and fill it with crushed ice at the airport after you go through security and before you get on the flight or ask for ice on the plane. Then you don’t have to worry about getting the gel packs through security (they likely have to be frozen solid but if they are not you may risk losing them as gel is not allowed).
I now keep some gel ice packs in the freezer and refrigerator at work just in case I need them.
Adjust Your Seating
This is tricky but basically you need to combat pressure and the build up of body heat wherever you sit if you have severe, chronic bursitis. Over time mine has finally gotten better so this is not so bad but when it was bad I had to be very careful where I sat.
- Pick chairs that are not squishy and excessively padded. You don’t want to sink down into anything where body heat will build up. Most couches are too soft.
- Don’t sit in chairs that are too narrow or have contoured sides that push on the side of your hip where the bursa is located. Pressure just like heat will trigger a flare and make it much worse.
- Use a seat cushion to boost yourself up. I used a stadium cushion in my car for years to boost myself up and keep my hips away from the contoured sides of the seat. Contoured seats are the bane of my existence! Try finding a car without them now! You can use a cushion on any chair to keep your hips away from contoured or soft edges.
Don’t Wear Tight or Stiff Pants
This is a big one too. Tight pants apply both pressure and encourage the build-up of body heat. These are the 2 big enemies of anyone with bursitis. They can also cause rubbing and irritation of seams over the sensitive area. It is really hard to give up jeans or other pants if you are used to them. I used to live in jeans and could not imagine not being able to wear them. Now I never wear jeans or stiff dress pants or any tight, stiff pant.
- The loose trends in pants now (like the palazzo pant and other bohemian, loose, flowey styles for women) are a godsend! Men could find relief in loose shorts or other loose pants. That is generally easier for men since they can just wear a belt.
- If you can wear skirts you will be set!
- If you have to wear fitted pants make sure they are a light, breathable fabric that has considerable stretch so there is less pressure and heat on the bursa.
Don’t Sleep on Your Side
This may be hard for some and easy for others but if you can learn to sleep on your back instead of your side you will probably be more comfortable in the end. The pressure of sleeping on your side will likely aggravate hip bursitis. I used to sleep on my sides all the time but now I am strictly a back sleeper.
Topical Pain Relief For Bursitis
If you need some relief now, there are topical gels and lotions that can help. Some are so great I can feel instant relief and use them every day.
This is my number 1 recommendation for bursitis relief. I use arnica gel morning and night every single day. It works, has no side effects, is safe and all natural and doesn’t have the strong smell or potential for skin irritation of all the menthol products. This is a brand I have used for years.
Arnica is a flower that looks like a daisy. It grows wild in many mountainous areas including in Europe and the U.S. It is naturally anti-inflammatory.
To read more about arnica, how it works and about these two brands, here is my review of best arnica gel and cream for bursitis.
These are so common you can find them anywhere. They may give you some relief and a cooling sensation.
These patches are very unique and work while you sleep. They actually draw the fluid out of the bursa! I know it sounds crazy but by using the concept of osmotic pressure, they draw fluid out and into the waterproof patch. In the morning you take the patch off and throw it away. The size of your bursa will actually go down as the fluid is drawn out.
There are some serious pros and cons with this method however.
Pros of the Osmo Patch:
- Unlike any other home treatment it draws the fluid out of the bursa and relieves swelling and pressure.
- It works while you sleep.
- It is not a medication, there is nothing to take internally.
- You don’t need a prescription though this was developed by a doctor to treat his own family.
- Contains no steroids or other drugs.
Cons of Osmo Patch:
- They are expensive.
- They are smelly. The smell is like charcoal or creosote and gets pretty strong. It can make your clothes and bedding smell but it does wash out.
- They can cause irritation if you have sensitive skin. I found I can be sensitive to the adhesive that sticks the edges to the skin. I position them so they are not underneath me where they will build up too much heat overnight and that helps but if you have really sensitive skin this might not work.
- They can’t be used during the day since you don’t want them to come off and they also need to be in close contact with the skin to work.
Supplements for Relief of Bursitis
There are many supplements that may help with bursitis because there are many potential causes of chronic bursitis including wide spread inflammation as well as overuse of a joint, deformity causing irritation with movement etc.
Here are the supplements that have helped me.
Zinc for Bursitis
Zinc is a natural anti-inflammatory. It is a mineral required by the body but many of us have low levels. Zinc can be supplemented in many different forms including pills, capsules, drops and more.
Pros and Cons of Zinc
- Natural anti-inflammatory
- Comes in many forms
- Natural anti-viral that helps fight colds and other infections
- Can cause upset stomach if taken in high doses or without food
How To Use Zinc Supplements
I now use elemental zinc drops since I can more easily adjust the dose. Also, supplements in pill form are not absorbed well so much of the zinc probably goes to waste. I have no idea how much I am actually absorbing from a pill or capsule. With the drops I should be absorbing a higher proportion of the zinc.
The drops don’t taste good but they are not the worst. I just put them in water but you could add them to other beverages to help mask the taste. I am currently using much less than the recommended dose. I use 6 to 10 drops twice per day.
Incidental Discovery of Great Zinc Benefits
I discovered the benefits of zinc by accident since I noticed I always felt much better when I took Zicam. I took Zicam to fight off cold viruses but eventually I noticed when I used it my bursitis was feeling great! I looked it up and learned that zinc is an anti-inflammatory! Who knew! It would sure be useful if regular doctors could tell us things like this. They are not training in nutrition however and likely don’t even know this. I have some open minded doctors who are supportive of my discoveries but they admit they are not training in nutrition. If you have a naturopathic doctor they may be more informed about these kinds of treatments.
Here are the reasons many of us are deficient in zinc and other nutrients.
Natural Progesterone Cream
This is a complex issue but basically a lack of progesterone (or too much estrogen or estrogen mimickers) can cause inflammation. Supplementing with NATURAL progesterone can combat this effect and provide relief of hot flashes, night sweats, itching, rashes, bursitis and more.
WARNING: You should not experiment with natural progesterone if you don’t know what you are doing. Ideally you should find a doctor that specializes in hormone balancing. The trick is to find someone who uses natural progesterone like that from the wild yam which is used in several brands of progesterone creams on the market. I use this one and LOVE it. The key is to use enough to be effective. Using just a small amount can cause the level of estrogen to increase in response and actually aggravate your condition. I did a lot of research and learned that starting with a high dose right away can prevent this miserable effect that many people suffer due to using too low of a dose or out of an abundance of caution. I have never had a bad effect.
I have to say this stuff changed my life. It totally cured my night sweats and helps greatly with many other conditions including bursitis and itching caused by nerve issues. It also helps alleviate general aches and pains and tenderness caused by the hormone imbalance. I cannot manage without this product. I probably would not be able to keep my job if I did not have this.
I use about 6 pumps per day but how much you need is highly variable and I cannot recommend a dosage. You could get your levels checked and consult with a doctor before use. Beware however, many doctors do not understand hormones well and are likely to recommend a dose that may be too low in my observation.
Magnesium for Bursitis
Magnesium has over 300 uses in the human body. It is the most widely used mineral and crucial for life. Many people don’t get enough magnesium nowadays. This occurs for many reasons which you can read about here: Causes of Low Magnesium. In addition to helping prevent diabetes, heart disease and help the body deal with stress, magnesium can also help bursitis. Here is my review of different magnesium mineral forms, which ones you may want to use and which products I recommend. There are a range of options to suit different needs including supplement and topical formulas. What Form of Magnesium Should I Use?
There are a number of people who claim old-fashioned Milk of Magnesia cured their bursitis. There are better forms of magnesium to take for everyday use that don’t have the laxative effect of Milk of Magnesia. I have not tried regular Milk of Magnesia however so there may be something especially useful in it. I do not know if these people had acute or chronic bursitis.
Diet Change for Bursitis
Bursitis is an inflammatory condition and can be triggered by eating certain foods. Some foods are generally inflammatory and some may cause inflammation in certain individuals due to food allergies or sensitivities.
Inflammatory Causing Foods for Most People
- Fried foods
- Spicy foods
- High fat foods
Inflammation Causing Foods for Certain People
- The Nightshade Family-Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant
- Any food that you are allergic to that causes an inflammatory response. This could be certain proteins for some people, grains, nuts, strawberries, citrus, red wine (very common), pineapple and many more. Some people including myself are sensitive to spices like turmeric (which is very popular right now) as well as cinnamon, cloves, ginger and paprika.
Healthy Foods May Cause Inflammation
There are many “healthy” foods that are touted as super foods with amazing benefits. They are great but if you are allergic to them they may do you more harm than good. Generally eating more fruits and vegetables is good for inflammation and it should always be our goal in general rather than eating lots of fried food or fast food with high fat. Just because something is a fruit or vegetable does not mean it won’t cause inflammation however.
These are just a few of the foods that can cause inflammation in certain people:
- Pineapple (contains bromaline which is generally an anti-inflammatory). If you are allergic to it, pineapple can cause immediate swelling in joints with bursitis.
- Turmeric (curcumin). This is one of the latest superfoods that is promoted for many health benefits. If you are allergic, as with any other food or spice, it can cause you much more pain than benefit.
- Garlic. Great stuff but for some people it can cause inflammation.
- Nuts. Once again, healthy but not if you are allergic or sensitive to them.
- Red Wine. Great if you can have it but the tannins are one of the most potent inflammatories for people with histamine intolerance and just a sip or two can cause bursitis to flare.
- Tea and Green Tea. Same story as above. Tea is very healthy in general but the tannins (like those in red wine) can cause inflammation for certain people like those with histamine intolerance.
- Gluten. Even if you don’t have celiac disease you may have an inflammatory response to gluten.
You Need to Find the Diet for YOU
As you can see from the list above, there are many “healthy” foods that may be terrible for certain people. You have to find the foods that work for you personally. Just because turmeric is a miracle spice for some people does not mean you should have it. You may love red wine but find that it is a trigger for inflammation. Don’t feel pressured to follow any specific diet based on other criteria. Find what works for you.
Summary Tips For Relief of Hip Bursitis
- Avoid heat and pressure on the affected area. Heat and pressure trigger chronic bursitis to flare up. This includes avoiding tight fitting and stiff clothing and adding cushions to boost hips above chair seats.
- Use cold to reduce inflammation. Ice, gel ice packs and any other source of cold can feel amazing and really help bring down swelling.
- Use products for topical relief of bursitis such as arnica gel and Osmo patches reviewed here.
- Try supplements for bursitis such as zinc which is a natural anti-inflammatory but don’t take it on an empty stomach.
- Try changing your diet to avoid common inflammatory foods like fried food and eat more fruits and vegetables. Beware that many healthy foods can cause inflammation in certain people. Some examples are pineapple, tea, turmeric and ginger.
What Works For You?
There are many other vitamins and supplements that can help with bursitis but these are the ones that help me the most.
I hope this post has given you some help in finding relief of hip bursitis or any other bursitis. All the products listed here work for bursitis in general so it does not matter if your bursitis is located in your knee, shoulder or any other body part. I highly recommend you give these products a try and hope they provide great relief for you.
Please tell me what works for you and any thoughts or recommendations you have in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.
Note: I am not a doctor or medical professional. These recommendations are based on personal experience and research. Consult a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment options.
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