Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome - Causes

Authored by Dr Colin Tidy, 23 Jan 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Laurence Knott, 23 Jan 2017

Your hip joint is known as a ball and socket joint. The ball (head) of your thigh bone (femur) fits into the socket of your pelvic bone to make your hip joint. This socket is called the acetabulum. There is a strong but flexible joint capsule that surrounds the hip joint. It helps to give stability to the joint and also produces a fluid called synovial fluid to give lubrication and help joint movement.

Trochanteric bursa

Most cases are due to minor injury or inflammation to tissues in your upper, outer thigh area. The causes of greater trochanteric pain syndrome include:

  • An injury such as a fall on to the side of your hip area.
  • Repetitive movements involving your hip area, such as excessive running or walking.
  • Prolonged or excessive pressure to your hip area (for example, sitting in bucket car seats may aggravate the problem).
  • Some infections (for example, tuberculosis) and some diseases (for example, gout and arthritis) can be associated with an inflamed fluid-filled sac (bursa).
  • The presence of surgical wire, implants or scar tissue in the hip area (for example, after hip surgery).
  • Having a difference in your leg length.

Greater trochanteric pain syndrome used to be called trochanteric bursitis. This was because the pain was thought to be coming from an inflamed bursa that lies over the greater trochanter. A bursa is a small sac filled with fluid which helps to allow smooth movement between two uneven surfaces. There are various bursae in the body and they can become inflamed due to various reasons.

However, research suggests that most cases of greater trochanteric pain syndrome are due to minor tears or damage to the nearby muscles, tendons or fascia, so that an inflamed bursa is an uncommon cause. So, rather than the term trochanteric bursitis, the more general term, greater trochanteric pain syndrome, is now preferred.

Further reading and references

Hi, after chronic hip pain for 2 years I have finally seen a specialist who has decided that it is a labral tear from a hyper-extension injury in 2015. I'm having a gadolinium MRI next week to...

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