Knee Bursitis: Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatment

Man with knee pain

Story at-a-glance -

  • One of the risk factors of developing knee bursitis is your occupation. If your job requires you to put pressure on your knees for extended periods of time, you’re more likely to have bursitis in the long run
  • There are several home remedies available to help ease the pain caused by knee bursitis. Read on to know more about knee bursitis and how to deal with this disease

The human knees each contain 11 bursae. Every one of them has a risk of becoming inflamed, causing pain and swelling. But there are certain bursa that are more prone to inflammation, and each of them has a unique name to allow easy differentiation. The three common subtypes of knee bursitis include:1

Prepatellar Bursitis

The prepatellar bursa is located above the kneecap and between the knee skin. It’s also called the “housemaid’s knee” because it was originally associated with people who used to work in conditions that required long periods of kneeling. It’s one of the more common forms of knee bursitis, appearing among roofers, plumbers, gardeners and carpet layers.

Infrapatellar Bursitis

Infrapatellar bursitis consists of two inflamed bursae. The first one is located between the patella tendon, which is found below the kneecap and the skin. The second refers to the deep infrapatellar bursa and shin. The most common indicator of this condition is pain in front of the knee, with a possibility of swelling. Similar to prepatellar bursitis, this condition is usually due to a result of direct trauma, frequently falling on the knees and small yet repetitive pressure on the knees.

Pes Anserine Bursitis

Another subtype of knee bursitis is pes anserine bursitis, specifically affecting the pes anserine bursa, which is located between the shin and three tendons of hamstring muscle found inside the knee. When this specific bursa becomes inflamed, it puts pressure on the surrounding parts, causing pain.

As such, one of the most significant indicators of this condition is pain inside the knee. You may also notice that this pain may increase as you strain your muscles, such as when you’re climbing the stairs.

Risk Factors of Knee Bursitis

One of the risk factors of developing knee bursitis is your occupation. If your job requires you to put pressure on your knees for extended periods of time, you’re more likely to have bursitis in the long run. Gardeners, carpet layers and athletes are more common to develop knee bursitis.

In relation to athletes, another possible cause of bursitis is sustaining an injury while participating in a game that puts stress on your knees, such as football, volleyball and wrestling. Running can also inflame your bursa, due to the constant pressure applied on your knees.

Those who are obese are at risk of developing knee bursitis, especially in the pes anserine bursa. If you’re suffering from excess weight, you should implement weight management strategies to keep yourself from developing any form of bursitis.

Treatment Methods for Knee Bursitis

There are several home remedies available to help ease the pain caused by knee bursitis. One of the first recommendations doctors will normally give you is to simply rest the affected knee. This means that you must reduce movement as much as possible to allow the inflammation to subside. You must not put pressure on the knee, do exercise or exert any strenuous effort until you feel better.2

To help speed up healing, you can place a cold compress on the site of inflammation, at regular intervals three to four times a day, for 20 minutes at a time.3 Should the pain become debilitating and start affecting your daily life to a greater degree, consider visiting a physical therapist, who will help you strengthen your knee and regain your mobility and balance through various exercises.4

In rare cases, drastic measures may need to be taken. If, for example, your bursitis was caused by a bacterial infection and has swollen rapidly, you will need to go through a process called aspiration. Your doctor will insert a needle and pull the fluid into the syringe to alleviate the pain. Afterward, you will be required to rest for a couple of days.5

3 Exercises for Knee Bursitis That You Can Try

Rehabilitation exercises, aside from resting and eating healthy food, are a core component of treating bursitis. Below are three exercises designed specifically for knee bursitis that you can do on your own, provided by the government of Alberta, Canada.6

Heel Slide

1. Lie on your back with your affected knee straight. Your good knee should be bent.

2. Bend your affected knee by sliding your heel across the floor and toward your buttock until you feel a gentle stretch in your knee.

3. Hold for about six seconds, and then slowly straighten your knee.

4. Repeat eight to 12 times.

Quad Sets

1. Sit with your affected leg straight and supported on the floor or a firm bed. Place a small, rolled-up towel under your affected knee. Your other leg should be bent, with that foot flat on the floor.

2. Tighten the thigh muscles of your affected leg by pressing the back of your knee down into the towel.

3. Hold for about six seconds, then rest for up to 10 seconds.

4. Repeat eight to 12 times.

Straight-Leg Raises to the Front

1. Lie on your back with your good knee bent so that your foot rests flat on the floor. Your affected leg should be straight. Make sure that your low back has a normal curve. You should be able to slip your hand in between the floor and the small of your back, with your palm touching the floor and your back touching the back of your hand.

2. Tighten the thigh muscles in your affected leg by pressing the back of your knee flat down to the floor. Hold your knee straight.

3. Keeping the thigh muscles tight and your leg straight, lift your affected leg up so that your heel is about 30 centimeters off the floor.

4. Hold for about six seconds, then lower slowly. Rest for up to 10 seconds between repetitions.

5. Repeat eight to 12 times.

Before you begin these exercises, consult with a licensed physical therapist to check which exercise will work best for you.

MORE ABOUT BURSITIS

Bursitis: an Introduction

What Is Bursitis?

Bursitis Types

Hip Bursitis

Elbow Bursitis

Knee Bursitis

Shoulder Bursitis

Heel Bursitis

Septic Bursitis

Bursitis Causes

Bursitis Symptoms

Bursitis Treatment

Bursitis Prevention

Bursitis Diet

Bursitis FAQ

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