Steps to relieve lateral hip pain

*Article written by SBF physiotherapist Emma McGuire BPhty (Hons)

If you’ve ever suffered from, or are currently suffering from, lateral hip pain you’ll know how frustrating, painful and sometimes debilitating it can be.

Lateral hip pain is often referred to as “trochanteric bursitis” which implies that the pain people feel on the outside of their hip is due to inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid filled sac that reduces friction between tendons and bones. However, research shows that in nearly all people with lateral hip pain, the bursitis seen on ultrasound is secondary to a dysfunction in the Gluteus Medius and Minimus tendons. We describe this as tendinopathy. Tendinopathy is NOT an inflammatory condition, but rather it is a degeneration of the tendon and it’s more often than not caused by bad habits and overuse.


Tendinopathy of these gluteal tendons presents as pain on the outside of the hip when you are weight bearing, particularly on a single leg (e.g. running, walking up and down stairs). Pain usually gets worse with activity. There is also tenderness over where the tendon inserts onto the outside of your thigh bone, and often pain at night when you lay directly on that hip.


It is very common to overload these tendons with compression just by sitting and standing with bad habits. An example would be standing and ‘hanging on one hip’ like you do when you hold a toddler, or sitting with your legs crossed. There are also other factors that can affect the tension in these tendons. Some factors are intrinsic and related to your structure and your mechanics like scoliosis in your spine, a leg length difference, muscle tightness or weakness. Other factors are extrinsic and are related to your environment like running on the camber of the road, running the same direction around a running track, sitting on a saddle chair, or sitting in a low lounge chair or car seat for extended periods of time.


  • Do NOT stretch your gluteal tendons!!! This is a common mistake that people make. By stretching them, you are causing more compressive load on the tendon and often aggravating the condition. Trigger-point release with a spikey ball, massage, acupuncture and dry needling may be useful ways to treat the muscle tightness.


  • Focus on de-loading the tendon by standing with your weight evenly distributed or sitting with your hips slightly higher than your knees and keeping your weight even between your “sitting bones”. At night, it can be helpful to sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees, or on your side with an eggshell overlay on your mattress and pillows between your knees to maintain a horizontal position of the top leg.


  • It is also crucial that you address muscle dysfunction and strengthen your gluteal muscles. Some exercises may include weight bearing exercises like glute bridges, crab walking, single leg balance work, mini lunges and squats. The exercises need to be performed without pain and be progressed appropriately. You can continue low impact cardio exercises like swimming (freestyle), cycling (with correct bike set-up) and possibly walking.

Unfortunately there’s no single solution for everyone with lateral hip pain. It’s important that you’re thoroughly assessed and diagnosed by a physiotherapist so that abnormal mechanics, movement dysfunction, or training errors can be individually addressed. 

*Article written by SBF physiotherapist Emma McGuire BPhty (Hons)

The good news for our members is that Emma is the latest addition to our SBF team as our resident physiotherapist. She’s available on our private support group to help out with all your niggling injuries, concerns and queries.

If you’d like to join us for the next SBF Challenge, and have all your meals, snacks, training sessions, core workouts and MIND sessions organised for the next 8 weeks:

REGISTER HERE… you’re worth it

Author: Sally Brouwer

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