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The 3 Best Stretches For Hip Bursitis

Trochanteric (or hip) bursitis is a painful condition that occurs as the result of inflammation in the bursa. The bursa is a fluid-filled, jelly-like sac that minimizes friction in joints and between other moving tissues in your body. When it becomes inflamed, it may cause pain and stiffness. By maintaining strength and flexibility, however, you can reduce the friction that causes your pain. 

Your physician or physical therapist will recommend when to start and how often to do your hip bursitis exercises. The general recommendation is to do the stretches 2 to 3 times a day and the exercises 1 to 2 times a day as tolerated. A floor mat can be useful and you will need a cushion or pillow. Start each exercise slowly, and ease the exercise if you start having pain. But before starting any activity, it’s important to understand your diagnosis.

Diagnosis The Issue

woman hip pain
Understanding the anatomy is an integral component of defining the diagnosis and outlining the appropriate framework for rehabilitation because many individuals associate symptoms here with the word “bursitis” based on what they’ve heard or read. The suffix “itis” implies inflammation of a bursa, the sub-gluteus maximus bursa to be exact, which then often dictates treatment – rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory.

However, instead of using a passive approach, get in the driver’s seat to start taking the appropriate steps to help yourself. 

The last thing to note before moving on to the next two sections is that there are many other reasons that individuals might have symptoms in this region that are beyond the scope of this blog. It’s always wise to reach out to a professional before putting yourself in any more pain. 

3 Key Stretches

1. Gluteal Stretch

Lie on your back on a comfortable surface with both knees and feet. Rest the ankle of the injured side on the other knee. Keep your other foot flat. Grasp your thigh on the uninjured side and pull toward your chest. This should cause you to feel a stretch along the buttocks on the injured side. You may also feel the stretch in your hip. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat three times.

2. Standing Iliotibial Band Stretch

Stand beside a wall with your injured side closest to the wall. Place one hand on the wall for support. Cross the leg on the uninjured side over the leg next to the wall. Keep the other foot flat on the floor and lean your hips against the wall. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat three times.

3.  Standing Iliotibial Band Stretch

Cross the leg that is uninjured in front of the injured leg. Without bending your knees, bend forward and reach toward the inside of the back foot. Hold this position for approximately 15 to 30 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat three times.

Habits to Change Outside of Stretching

Activity modifications are a key component of rehabilitation for this lateral hip pain. These recommendations are based on trying to reduce compression of the gluteal tendons at their attachment site on the greater trochanter – either directly such as by lying on that side or via the overlying IT Band when the hip is in adduction due to bursitis.

Let’s rattle off some possible activities to modify, but also understand that if they don’t cause you any issues, don’t worry about them.

  • Sleeping – minimize sleeping on the affected side and keep a pillow or two between your legs when sleeping on the unaffected side.
  • Sitting – limit sitting cross-legged or in deep hip flexion for extended periods of time.
  • Stretching – temporarily avoid the so-called piriformis and IT Band stretches as they might contribute to symptoms.
  • Standing – reduce time spent “hanging” on one leg (passively resting on one leg).
  • Walking – track your steps to determine your tolerable baseline and then build up over time.
  • Stairs – use the handrail on the opposite side of your affected hip to offload those tendons as needed.
  • Running – increasing cadence by 5-10% may help reduce hip adduction.

Those are all considerations for ways to potentially reduce the amount of load experienced by the gluteal tendons, but we also want to build up their capacity so that they can handle more load. That’s where the exercise progressions come into play.

Treatment For Hip Bursitis

If these exercises or changes in daily habits do not help alleviate your hip pain, schedule an appointment with your New Jersey physical therapist. At Garrow Wellness Center, we combine stretching and strengthening exercises with other types of treatment to strengthen your body and ease pain and discomfort. To schedule a consultation, please contact us today.