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Pickleball - Pain in the Outer Hip


Have you ever experienced a pain on the outside of your hip?


It’s actually a pretty common problem that pickleball players run into, and it’s possible that a little structure called a bursa may be your culprit. However, while muscles, tendons, and ligaments are all fairly familiar terms to most people, just what on earth is a bursa, and why would it cause pain?


A bursa is essentially a little sac filled with fluid. These structures actually exist naturally throughout our bodies, and act as cushioning in areas that tend to experience a lot of friction (such as between two bony surfaces). They don’t move, stretch, or contract. However, bursas are full of nerve endings, meaning that if it’s irritated, it’s going to let you know!


In the case of the hip (trochanteric) bursa, it sits on top of a roughened area of bone on the upper part of your femur, which is the long bone of your upper leg. Pain coming from an agitated bursa is often either achy or sharp. It is important to note that there are other problems that can manifest similarly to trochanteric bursitis, so don’t just assume that you have it if you haven’t been formally diagnosed!


So, since we know that the bursa sits there as a supporting structure, what exactly causes it to become inflamed and painful?


That right there’s the million dollar question, and also the key to recovery.


One cannot help a bursa recover by simply treating the bursa itself, because it’s not a structure that causes problems all by itself. Recovering from bursitis is dependent on figuring out what is bothering it in the first place, and addressing that. Once that is taken care of, the extra stress or strain placed upon the bursa will improve, and the issue should resolve and not return. Great! So...what bothers the bursa?


This is where we have to do a little bit of digging. Many different structures influence the outer hip, and therefore could cause additional stress to be placed upon the bursa. Some potential causes include a problematic gluteus medius (a butt muscle), low back issues, abnormal movement patterns or body mechanics, or having specific muscles that are too weak or tight.


Thinking a little more pickleball specific, the sport requires a lot of side to side motions, footwork, and loads of hip control to do well. Underlying lower body weakness or tightness, compensation and poor play habits can all make the pickleball player susceptible to this type of injury.


With so many different things potentially affecting the bursa, treatment may look very different from one person to another depending on the cause! It’s an issue that has no cookie cutter solution, but with adequate treatment bursitis should recover 100% without the need for surgery or other more invasive interventions!


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As the owner of Serendipity Physical Therapy and Wellness, I’m an avid pickleball addict in Naples, Florida, with a goal of keeping pickleball players moving at their best and injury free. I work with players for anything ranging from reducing hip pain, weakness, or tightness, to helping with injury prevention, proper conditioning, and good technique.

If you’re new, you can check out more of my advice and content here: https://www.serendipityptw.com/blog.


If there is anything I can help you with or you have questions, please give me a call at (239) 232-8155, or send me an email at Contact@SerendipityPTW.com. I would love to see how I can help get you moving at your best!


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