Hip Bursitis vs Arthritis: How to Tell the Difference

If you’ve been experiencing pain in your hip, you may be wondering if you have arthritis. Since most American adults are aware of arthritis as something they may experience as they age, this is a common assumption. However, there is a similar condition that is often overlooked: hip bursitis.  

Hip Bursitis vs Arthritis

hip pain x-ray

On the most basic level, the characteristics of your hip pain can help you determine whether you’re suffering from hip arthritis or bursitis.

If your pain is sharp and intense at first, then ebbs to a widespread ache, you may have hip bursitis. Alternatively, if your pain develops slowly and feels worse in the morning, you may be suffering from hip arthritis.

What is bursitis of the hip?

Bursitis of the hip – or of any joint – occurs when the jelly-like sacs positioned between bones and soft tissue are irritated and inflamed. These sacs, called bursae, act as a cushion for your joints. Bursitis, put simply, is the inflammation of bursa anywhere in your body.

There are two types of hip bursitis: trochanteric bursitis and iliopsoas bursitis. Trochanteric bursitis is caused by the bursa on the outside point of the hip, on the greater trochanter of the femur. The second type of hip bursitis is when the iliopsoas bursa, which is located on the groin side of the hip, is inflamed. While trochanteric bursitis is more common than iliopsoas bursitis, both are treated similarly.

What does bursitis of the hip feel like?

  • Sharp, intense pain that progresses to a widespread ache around the rest of the hip, groin and thigh
  • Pain or stiffness after too much activity
  • Pain or stiffness after too little activity
  • Pain when walking, squatting and/or climbing
  • Pain that worsens at night

Hip Bursitis Causes

Per the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, there are a number of risk factors and causes of hip bursitis:

  • Repetitive stress and overuse injuries
  • Traumatic or chronic hip injuries
  • Spine disease
  • Leg-length inequality
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Previous surgery
  • Bone spurs or calcium deposits

Hip Bursitis Treatment

Hip bursitis may improve over time with conservative measures, such as rest, ice, pain relievers and physical therapy. If conservative treatments do not relieve your hip bursitis pain, corticosteroid injections can quickly relieve pain and inflammation. Surgical fixes for hip bursitis is rare; however, hip surgery to drain inflamed bursa may be necessary if all other treatment options fail.

What is arthritis of the hip?

One of the most common causes of hip pain, arthritis is a “wear and tear” degenerative disorder that gets worse over time. Osteoarthritis – the most common arthritis of the hip – occurs when the cartilage within the hip’s ball-and-socket joint wears down. With less or no cartilage for cushion, the femoral head of the thigh bone rubs against the acetabular socket (hip socket).  

Less common, but still prevalent, is inflammatory arthritis of the hip. Rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and systemic lupus erythematosus are the three types of inflammatory arthritis that affect the hip joint.

What does arthritis of the hip feel like?

  • Pain that develops slowly and is typically worse in the morning or with rainy weather
  • Stiffness, reduced range of motion and difficulty walking and/or bending
  • Locking, sticking or grating of the hip joint during walking or exercise
  • Pain in the hip, thigh, buttock and groin, especially during vigorous activity
  • Swelling of the hip
  • Tenderness in the hip joint
  • Pain severe enough to make walking difficult or cause a limp

Hip Arthritis Causes

Per the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, there are a number of risk factors and causes of hip osteoarthritis:

  • Increasing age
  • Family history of arthritis or osteoarthritis
  • Previous injury to the hip joint
  • Developmental dysplasia of the hip (improper formation of the hip joint at birth)
  • Obesity

Hip Arthritis Treatment

There are a number of nonsurgical hip arthritis treatments, including lifestyle changes, physical therapy, medications, assistive devices, such as canes and walkers, and corticosteroid injections.

If nonsurgical treatments are not an option, there are three common hip surgeries for arthritis: hip arthroscopy, hip resurfacing and total hip replacement. If hip surgery is the right source of treatment for your arthritis, your orthopedic hip specialist will walk you through all of your options.

If you are experiencing hip pain and would like to talk to an orthopedic specialist, please feel free to contact us. We are happy to answer your questions and help in any way we’re able.


I’m looking for a cortisone steroid injection to treat hip bursitis in Park City. I’m covered by a select health high deductible insurance program
so looking for the most cost efficient way to get it done. Thank you,


    Unfortunately, our hip doctor in Park City isn’t currently on the Select Health panels at that location, though we are working on it. He is able to see you in our Salt Lake City office, if the drive wouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience. The most cost-effective way to get it done would likely be through your insurance, even though you have a high deductible plan. Please call our office for more information or to schedule an appointment @ 435-615-8822. We would be happy to help!


I’m suffering g right hip inner joints pain, sometimes radiates to my knee and foot. Shatp pain at times.Aches at night. Now I limp. went to chiro, had one legs l different length. It helped some
Feels like my joint slips out of place at times. Did injections, exercises,but no change. continued working as a cna. Not good I know,but theres a pandemic, little help. A diagnosis of sciatica was earlier given. Thats 5 months ago. I’m losing strength in my r leg. Hurts to stand walk,lie down. My activities are limited now and job at risk. Should I quit working? Ct ordered but expensive. Arthritis or busa? Help. I’m at the end of my rope. Iceing did help at first. Ibuprofin a no no for me.


    We are unable to give you advice of how to move forward, or whether you should quit working, without an evaluation. I am sorry you are in pain and loosing strength. I would recommend following your doctor’s recommendation for a CT. Or you can consider getting a second opinion from an orthopedic spine specialist. Wishing you all the best.


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