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Hip Bursitis and Running: Effective Prevention & Recovery

Updated: May 23, 2023

Hip bursitis and running can often go hand in hand, leading to discomfort and reduced performance for many athletes. This blog looks into the anatomy of hip bursitis in runners, considering how bursae help joint movement and the importance of the greater trochanter for hip balance. Understanding common causes of hip bursitis related to running is crucial for prevention. We'll discuss how weakness in abductors and external rotators, leg length discrepancies, and running on uneven terrain contribute to this condition. Beyond recognizing common symptoms, we will also examine strengthening exercises that help prevent inflammation within the hip region and focus on glute hip strength. We'll explore stretching techniques aimed at reducing risk factors associated with running injuries like hip bursal inflammation. Additionally, injury prevention measures such as shoe quality checks, gait analysis while running, and low-impact cross-training options are covered to ensure a comprehensive understanding of managing hip bursitis and running effectively.

Anatomy of Hip Bursitis in Runners

Hip bursitis occurs when the fluid-filled sacs called bursae, which act as cushions to help reduce friction and lubricate joints, become inflamed due to high-impact activities like running. This inflammation is typically caused by repetitive friction over the greater trochanter of the hip bone.

The Role of Bursae in Joint Function

Bursae play a crucial role in maintaining smooth movement between bones, tendons, and muscles. In runners, two primary types of hip bursal inflammation are common: trochanteric bursitis and iliopsoas bursitis. Trochanteric bursitis affects the outer part of the thigh bone (greater trochanter), while iliopsoas bursitis involves smaller muscles near the front portion of your hip joint.

Greater Trochanter's Significance in Hip Stability

The greater trochanter serves as an attachment point for several important hip muscles, including gluteal muscles and tensor fasciae latae muscle that contribute significantly towards overall hip stability during weight-bearing exercises such as running downhill or uphill.

The anatomy of hip bursitis in runners is a complex yet essential component to understand for proper prevention and treatment. Comprehending the usual sources linked to running may aid in recognizing likely danger elements that could lead to this disorder.

Common Causes of Hip Bursitis Related to Running

Overuse is the most common cause of hip bursitis among runners; however, it can also develop after a fall or direct blow to the hip. Factors such as poor abductor strength, leg length differences, and running on uneven terrain contribute significantly towards developing this condition.

Weakness in Abductors and External Rotators

Poor muscle strength in the hip region can lead to increased stress on the bursae. Runners should focus on strengthening their abductors and external rotators, which help stabilize the pelvis during movement.

Leg Length Discrepancies

Leg length discrepancies can create an imbalance in weight distribution while running, leading to overuse injuries like trochanteric bursitis. Consulting with a physical therapist for proper assessment and treatment is crucial for addressing this issue.

Running on Cambered Surfaces (Uneven Terrain)

  • Hip bone: Running downhill or on cambered surfaces places additional strain on your hips due to uneven weight-bearing exercise.

  • Knees bent: Maintaining slightly bent knees when running downhill helps absorb impact forces that could otherwise exacerbate inflammation around iliopsoas bursa.

Running on cambered surfaces, such as uneven terrain, can cause hip bursitis due to the increased stress and strain placed on the hips. Identifying indications of hip bursitis is essential for an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Hip Bursitis

Lateral or outside hip pain is a typical symptom for those experiencing hip bursitis. This discomfort often worsens at night, making it difficult to sleep on the affected side. The pain may also radiate down the thigh bone and into the lower back. Additional symptoms may include swelling around the affected area and increased pressure around nearby joints like knees for knee-related cases.

Identifying Lateral Hip Pain

To accurately diagnose hip bursitis, it's essential to differentiate lateral hip pain from other potential causes such as Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), lower back issues, or muscle strains in the gluteal muscles. A healthcare professional can help identify the source of your pain through physical examination and imaging tests if necessary.

Swelling and Discomfort During Daily Activities

  • Pain when climbing stairs or getting up from a seated position with knees bent.

  • Tenderness over the greater trochanteric bursa during palpation.

  • Reduced range of motion in the hip joint due to inflammation and stiffness.

*If you experience hip pain, it is important to seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause. Treatment options may include physical therapy, rehab exercises, or anti-inflammatory medication to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. In some cases, it may be necessary to completely stop running to allow the hip joint to heal.*

Strengthening Exercises for Preventing Hip Bursal Inflammation

Implementing a strength training program focused on strengthening muscles surrounding the hips can help prevent or alleviate existing symptoms related to hip bursitis. Target weak areas such as abductors with specific exercises designed for runners' needs based on professional evaluations. Correcting muscle imbalances is key for injury prevention and having a well rounded strengthening program like Kim Miller Fitness' Stronger Together program takes the guess work out of it for you.

Importance of Strong Gluteal Muscles

Gluteal muscles are indispensable for preserving hip solidity and diminishing the probability of experiencing bursitis in the hip region. Strengthen these muscles by incorporating exercises like clamshells, single-leg bridges, and lateral band walks into your routine. For detailed instructions on how to perform these exercises correctly, consult this guide on glute-strengthening exercises. Distance runners are particularly susceptible to developing hip bursitis due to the repetitive stress placed on the hip joint but here are a few exercises you can do to help prevent this injury:

Prehab for Hip Bursitis

  • Hip Abduction/Clamshells

  • Banded Lateral Walks

  • Squat variations

  • Hip thrusters

  • Side Plank with Lateral Leg Raises

By incorporating strengthening exercises into your routine, you can help prevent hip bursitis and other running injuries. Remember to start slowly and gradually increase weight-bearing exercise to avoid overuse injury. Incorporating gluteal muscle strengthening into a running program can help to mitigate potential injury risks. Additionally, stretching exercises can help reduce risk factors associated with hip bursitis caused by running, such as tightness in the hip flexors or IT band.

Stretching Techniques for Reducing Risk Factors Associated with Running Injuries Like Hip Bursal Inflammation

Incorporating functional stretching activities into your routine is crucial to prevent hip bursitis and other running injuries. These stretches, combined with gradually increasing training volume, can help maintain joint health and flexibility. Let's explore some essential stretches that target the hip flexors, IT band, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

Hip Flexor Stretches

Keeping your hip flexors flexible helps reduce strain on the iliopsoas bursa. One effective stretch is the kneeling hip flexor stretch: start in a lunge position with one knee on the ground; keep your chest upright while gently pushing hips forward.

IT Band Stretches

Tightness in the iliotibial (IT) band contributes to trochanteric bursitis. Try this standing IT band stretch: cross one leg behind the other; lean towards the back leg side until you feel a gentle pull along your outer thigh.

Hamstring and Quadriceps Flexibility

  • Hamstring Stretch: Sit down with legs extended straight out in front of you; reach for toes while keeping knees slightly bent.

  • Quadriceps Stretch: Stand up straight; hold onto a support if needed; grab ankle of one foot behind you and gently pull heel towards buttocks.

Regular stretching of the hip flexors, IT band, hamstrings and quadriceps can help reduce risk factors associated with running injuries like hip bursitis. Taking preventative measures such as investing in quality shoes that fit correctly and engaging in gait analysis while running are also important to injury prevention for runners.

Injury Prevention Measures in Runners

As a runner, prioritizing injury prevention measures is crucial for maintaining optimal performance levels and avoiding setbacks due to conditions like hip bursitis. By incorporating strengthening exercises, selecting proper footwear, undergoing gait analysis, and participating in low-impact cross-training activities, you can reduce the risk of developing hip bursitis and other running-related injuries.

Importance of Shoe Quality and Regular Checks for Wear

Investing in high-quality running shoes that provide adequate support and cushioning is essential. Make sure to replace your shoes every 300-500 miles or when signs of wear become evident.

Gait Analysis While Running

A professional gait analysis can help identify any biomechanical issues contributing to overuse injuries such as hip bursitis. Addressing these issues through corrective exercises or shoe modifications may prevent further complications.

Low Impact Cross-Training Options

  • Cycling: A non-weight-bearing exercise that helps build leg strength without stressing the hips.

  • Aquatic Exercises: Water-based workouts offer resistance training while reducing joint impact.

  • Pilates: Focuses on core strength which supports overall stability during runs.

FAQs in Relation to Hip Bursitis and Running

Does Running Make Hip Bursitis Worse?

Running can potentially worsen hip bursitis if proper precautions are not taken. Overuse, improper form, and inadequate warm-up or stretching can exacerbate the condition. To prevent worsening of symptoms, focus on proper running technique, cross-training activities, and incorporating targeted strengthening exercises and stretches for the hips.

Do I Have to Stop Running with Hip Bursitis?

If you're experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of hip bursitis while running, it may be beneficial to temporarily reduce your mileage or intensity until pain subsides. However, in severe cases where pain persists despite modifications, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional before continuing your training regimen.

What Activities Aggravate Hip Bursitis?

Activities that involve repetitive stress on the hips such as long-distance running, hill climbing, or descending stairs can aggravate hip bursitis. Additionally, sudden increases in training volume or intensity without adequate preparation might also contribute to increased inflammation around the affected joint.

Does Running Cause Hip Bursitis?

Hip bursitis is often associated with overuse injuries from high-impact sports like distance running due to repetitive stress placed on the greater trochanter area during these activities. Factors such as poor biomechanics and muscle imbalances can increase susceptibility; however, running alone does not directly cause this condition.


Overall, hip bursitis can be a painful and frustrating condition for runners. Understanding the anatomy of the hip joint, common causes of bursal inflammation related to running, and identifying symptoms early on are all important steps in preventing and managing this injury.

Incorporating strengthening exercises for abductor muscles and external rotators, stretching techniques for flexibility, cross-training activities, and seeking professional help when necessary are also key strategies in staying healthy as a runner with hip bursitis.

If you're looking for ways to help prevent an injury such as hip bursitis from happening altogether while still achieving your fitness goals as a runner or athlete, check out KMF. Our team can provide personalized training programs tailored specifically to your needs that will keep you moving forward without risking injury!

Train Smart, Be Consistent and Unlock Your Fitness Potential

Jennifer McMahon PT, DPT

**The content in this physical therapy blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The author and publisher of this blog post are not liable for any errors or omissions in the content, nor for any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use. Reliance on any information provided by this blog post is solely at your own risk.**

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