Trochanteric Pain Masquerades as Hip Arthritis
Point to the pain; if you just pointed to the greater trochanter which is on the outside of your upper leg, you probably do not have hip arthritis. Arthritis pain in the hip joint is usually felt on the inside of the leg, near the groin. Many people like you might be mislead into thinking that you have hip arthritis when you do not. This case of mistaken identity might then lead you to believe that there is nothing to be done or that there is no chance of getting better without a major joint replacement surgery. Nothing could be further from the truth if you just pointed to the greater trochanter.
The typical profile of individuals that suffer with trochanter pain is similar to those that suffer with hip arthritis. Typically, women ages 40-60 years old have these pains in the upper leg. The pain is usually worse with climbing stairs, getting out of a chair or standing. Even lying on the affected side is painful. But the similarities between hip arthritis pain and trochanteric pain end when you point to the pain.
When you point to the trochanter, you have just told your doctor that the pain is not in the hip joint. Pain on the outside of your leg could also be due to other conditions like myofascial pain, a bone fracture, or lumbar degeneration. After your doctor investigates further into the reason why you have pain, you may be given the diagnosis of greater trochanteric pain syndrome which is also known as: trochanteric bursitis and/or trochanteric tendonitis.
The greater trochanter is the major attachment point of muscles like the gluteus medius. These buttock muscles are very actively involved in most of the hip motion needed for standing, walking, running and climbing. Because of all this activity depends on the trochanter, it is easy to see why the area can get quite sore.
Once you have pointed to the pain and your doctor has given you the diagnosis, the right treatment can begin. You can expect trochanteric pain to improve with strengthening of weakened hip muscles and alleviation of inflammation around the painful site. People who have trochanteric bursitis improve with physical therapy and do not need hip replacement surgeries. People with hip arthritis usually get worse over time and eventually need a major surgery.
So if you just pointed to the outside of your leg rather than the inside of your leg, do not despair. You probably have trochanteric pain syndrome and not the dreaded “A” word. Don’t let this great masquerader fool you.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.