GTPS – greater trochanteric pain syndrome

The torso and legs of a person running towards the left hand side of the image. They're wearing marching beige shorts and t-shirt. Behind them is a blurred building and grass, giving the impression of movement. The Ordinary Runner logo is overlaid on the image, highlighting the location of GTPS.

What is GTPS?

Right, let’s start with the disclaimer. I’m not a medical professional. If you’re looking for a medical professional, don’t look here. Okay? Good.

So, what the hell is greater trochanteric pain syndrome (GTPS for the sake of this blog)?

In short, it’s a pain in the arse. Well, it’s a pain the hip and down the leg a bit. At least, that’s what it is for me.

Also called gluteal tendinopathy, lateral hip pain or trochanteric bursitis, it typically affects women and people aged between 40 and 60 years old.

Hi, I’m people aged between 40 and 60 years old. Pleased to meet you. (Not you, GTPS. I was talking to the reader.)

It occurs, according to the NHS, “when the tissues which lie over the outside of the hip bone (greater trochanter) become irritated.”

If you think you might be suffering with the condition, the NHS article I linked above is worth reading. Oh, and, if you do think you might be suffering with the condition, go and see a medical professional. Of which I’m not one, in case that wasn’t already clear.

What does it feel like?

For me, it feels like a dull ache on the outside of my hip, just in front of the fleshier bit that, medically, is not called the arse.

That’s not the full story. As a direct result of this injury, I’ve become familiar with the term “referred pain.” In case you don’t know, referred pain is where you feel pain somewhere other than where the injury is. In my case, the referred pain is in my iliotibial band and manifests as a nagging, lingering ache, which feels a lot like a dead leg. For a while, I also had a twinge in my groin (please, we’re all grown-ups), which may have been another referred pain.

It feels like a dull ache on the outside of my hip.

Add to that, Grant, the osteopath who I’m visiting on a steadily reducing basis, found and released an excrutiating knot in my thigh. I’m not sure whether it was linked to the GTPS. It definitely hurt. In fact, I’m not ashamed to say that it brought tears to my eyes. I don’t hold a grudge. He was just doing his job.

How does it happen?

The NHS website claims that it can happen for no apparent reason, which is helpful. They go on to suggest a few other causes, including a change to activity levels (more distance / pace), reduced strength and flexibility of muscles around the hip and buttocks, and medical issues, like osteoarthritis. I’ve read elsewhere that sitting with your legs crossed and standing for long periods with a hip kicked out can also be a cause.

I think I know what caused mine. Late in 2021, I did a race organised by Maverick, which took in 20 something KM of South Downs around Slindon. It was hard work – and a couple more KM than I’d bargained for – but really lovely.

An image from the top of a hill in the South Downs near Slindon. A path runs through the middle of the image, vanishing into the hedgerows that line either side beneath a cloudy sky. The image is overlaid with Strava branding and information.
Hard work, but lovely.

Of course, as you know, a race isn’t just the bit between the start and finish. The race starts weeks or months before someone shouts go. In this case, those weeks and months involved a lot more hills than these little legs were used to. Not only did I change my activity levels, but I also threw in a whole load more elevation.

Add to that the fact that I’d recently invested in a sit / stand desk. I bought it because I thought it would be good for my health. Oh, the irony. Try weaving that into a song Ms Morrisette. Obviously, I can’t blame standing up to work for my GTPS. I can, however, blame the fact that I would stand with my left hip kicked out like the sassy young thing that I am. Then, when I sat, I’d sling one leg over the other. Like the sassy young thing that I am.

It was the perfect storm of imperfect form and, as 2021 drew to a close, it waved a big ole chequered flag in front of my training. Just as I was building up to the Worthing Half Marathon (a race I still haven’t done).

What did I do about it?

Well, after not seeing any medical professionals for a long time, I finally went to see a medical professional. They diagnosed trochanteric bursitis and stuck needles in my hip once a week for a month or so. Having declared themselves a genius and claiming I was cured, they sent me off ready to run again.

Like the annoying cat in the annoying kids’ song, the GTPS came back.

The cat came back.

So, I went to see a different physio, who claimed that the previous diagnosis was hokum and should be ignored. To their credit, they did a lot more than just proclaim their own brilliance while using me as a pin cushion. They also did a lot more probing, diagnosing and exploring. Together, we worked out that my left foot was lazy, and we came up with a good plan to get me back on my feet, along with some proper exercises to do at home.

It worked, eventually. I got back out there and, throughout the end of 2022 and most of 2023, I was running freely. Then, I think I got carried away, hit the trails a bit too much, upped my distance too quickly and, probably slipped back into that same sassiness that knackered me the first time.

If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know what happened. If you haven’t, I’ll summarise for you: the cat came back, it just wouldn’t stay away.

What am I doing to get rid of my GTPS now?

Well, now I’m doing what Grant has told me to do.

That’s this:

I’m also keeping up my visits, so he can keep working on the injury and monitoring progress. And it’s working. Slowly. At least, there’s a lot less pain than before. Even in the mornings, when the pain is notoriously worse with GTPS.

And there’s more. I’m sad that say that I’ve had to lose some sassiness. No more kicked out hip while I work. No more legs crossed when I sit. These days, my legs remain at a regimented hip distance apart – even when I’m slumped in front of the telly, feet up on the footstool. You have no idea how frustrating it is, or how often I catch myself returning to those old sassy ways I used to love so much. I guess it’s just who I am. Deep down.

I’m keeping up a good yoga practice as well, with some specific strength and conditioning thrown in for fun (not fun). I’d hoped to start swimming this week, but I’ve done something to my back. I think I must have lifted something wrongly. Or lifted something too heavy. Or got out of a chair too quickly. I don’t know. It hurts, so swimming starts next week.

Then, all going well, I’ll soon be running again. Really slowly with a gradual build up. 1km at a time. No hills for at least some months. And I won’t stop the yoga when I start running. Not this time. That way, maybe, I can put this GTPS behind me and become the Ordinary Runner I used to be.

Just a slightly less sassy version.


Header image by Adam Davis on Unsplash