What to Know About Ischial Bursitis

Medically Reviewed by Sanjay Ponkshe on June 05, 2023
4 min read

Pain in the sit bones can happen to people who sit down a lot throughout the day. Sit bone pain can be diagnosed as ischial bursitis.

It often affects people who sit on hard surfaces for a large part of the day, but there are other causes, too. Most cases of ischial bursitis get better when you stop the activity that caused the bursitis to flare up, but in some cases, there can be complications.

Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae. Bursae are small sacs filled with fluid. They’re located between your muscle and bones in different areas of your body. Their job is to cushion the space between your muscles, bones, tendons, and joints.

Your ischium is the lower part of your hip bone. The ischium — also called sit bones — bears most of your weight when you sit down. Ischial bursitis happens when the bursae that cushion your hip bones become painful and inflamed due to irritation.

Ischial bursitis is also known as weaver’s bottom. That’s because, years ago, weavers sat on hard seats for most of the day to perform their work. In some places, it’s known as tailor’s bottom.

This condition usually affects people who sit on hard surfaces for long periods of time, or those who exercise using the same repetitive hip movements. It can also be caused by trauma to the hip.

Symptoms of ischial bursitis include:

  • Tenderness in the upper thigh and lower buttock
  • Swelling in the lower buttock and hip area
  • Pain when stretching the hip or buttock
  • Pain that worsens when you sit down
  • Inability to extend the hip
  • Radiating pain from the buttock down through the leg

Radiating pain in the lower body can be present during other medical conditions, especially nerve-related ones. Sciatica is pain caused by the sciatic nerve, which also runs from the hip through the leg. A doctor will be able to tell the difference between the two conditions.

Ischial bursitis is not a common condition, but it can affect people of all ages. Most of the time, it will resolve itself without major medical intervention.

Because ischial bursitis is caused by repetitive activities or motions, there are some groups of people who are more at risk to develop it than others.

People at risk to develop ischial bursitis are:

  • People who bicycle frequently
  • Runners
  • People who exercise frequently or improperly
  • People who sit for long periods of time
  • People who jump or kick repetitively

To help your body heal, you’ll need to avoid whatever activity caused the inflammation. You might need to make some changes to your routine in order to keep the bursitis from getting worse.

Complications are rare, but they can happen. The bursae can become infected and could eventually cause you to have a limited range of motion in the affected bones and other tissues.

Bacterial skin infection (cellulitis) and bacterial joint infection (septic joints) are two other possible complications that could happen. 

Bursitis can re-occur from time to time. Take care of yourself to avoid pain and any potential complications. Try these tips to prevent discomfort and flare-ups in the future:

  • Bend your knees when lifting an object. If you keep your legs straight, you can put extra pressure on your hips. 
  • Use cushions to relieve pressure. Using a cushioned seat or kneeling pad can help keep you comfortable and distribute pressure evenly.
  • Take breaks. Don’t do one repetitive activity for too long. Space it out and give your body time to rest in between.
  • Warm up. Warming up before exercise increases blood flow to your joints and prevents injury.  

There are things you can do at home to relieve pain in the sit bones. You’ll need to stop any activity that causes you pain or worsens it.

Next, apply ice or cold packs to the area and rest it. You can try an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like naproxen or ibuprofen to relieve inflammation.

You can also try some gentle stretching. Lie on your back with cushions under your head and hips with your affected leg bent, knee pointing upward. Grasp the area behind the knee and slowly pull it into your chest. Breathe, and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 6 to 10 times.

Your doctor may want to perform some tests to confirm you’re suffering from ischial bursitis before they treat you. Imaging tests like ultrasounds or magnetic image resonance (MRI) tests can give the doctor a glimpse into what your case looks like.

If your pain is severe, they might recommend a corticosteroid injection directly into the inflamed bursae.

If the doctor suspects complications like infection, they may order a blood test and prescribe antibiotics.