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Hip Bursitis, a Patient's Story

Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

The following is a real story, by a real patient.

It all began with a fracture to my L5 vertebra. I had been out playing on my Sea Doo (personal watercraft), which is one of my favorite activities. I hit the ocean hard that day, and apparently, I hit my L5 vertebra hard! After a fun day on the ocean, I usually soak in the hot tub to take away the aches and pains I have incurred while playing on the ocean. My back is generally sore after a day like that particular day, so I didn't think much of the back and hip pain I was experiencing.

Two weeks passed, and I was still suffering from significant back and hip pain. I thought, guess it's time to see a doctor. When the doctor brought in the X-ray of my spine, and said "you have a fracture" I just about fell off the table. All I thought was "what? fracture? how?" My doctor took a history of what activities I had been participating in the last couple of weeks. It was decided that my "fun day" on the water was the culprit of the back and hip pain.

A magnetic resonance image scan (MRI) and CT scan later, it was confirmed – a fracture of my L5. Recovery was estimated at approximately six months. But at six months, I was still suffering from significant hip pain. Significant enough that I could not walk more than 100 yards without having to stop in wrenching pain. I had to limit any exercise, as the pain was just too much. I went back to the orthopedist, and he referred me to a pain management specialist. The pain management physician reviewed my MRI again, and noticed some swelling at the spinal cord nerve junction at L4 and L5. He said this compression on the nerve could refer pain to my hip. Two spinal epidural injections later, I felt pretty good for a short period of time. I was using my ability to take long walks as my key to recovery success.

After a month, the hip pain was back, and with the same intensity. My orthopedic doctor was stumped. The pain management doctor was stumped. Out of frustration, I decided to take the pain in the hip matter into my own hands. I work with physicians, so I called the rheumatologist I work with, and asked him if I he would be willing to examine the pain I was having.

After a short exam, describing the hip pain, intensity, location, etc., his diagnosis was hip bursitis. He gave me a steroid injection into the troublesome area. I am happy to report that nine months later, I only have hip pain on occasion.

Sometimes it takes a fresh perspective to make a diagnosis. I can only surmise that my orthopedist and pain management doctors were focused on the fracture, or nerve compression as the source of my hip pain, and failed to "look outside the box."

Patient advocacy is an important part of your health care, and sometimes it is necessary to take an active role in the diagnosis and treatment process. Doctor's aren't perfect, if you feel that you are not getting the answers you need, sometimes a second opinion is helpful. In my case, taking the matter into my own hands and reaching out for a second opinion solved the problem.


Last Editorial Review: 2/6/2009




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