What You Need to Know About Knee Bursitis

Table of Contents

  1. What is Knee Bursitis?
  2. Knee Bursitis Symptoms
  3. Knee Bursitis Causes 
  4. Knee Bursitis Diagnosis
  5. Knee Bursitis Treatment
  6. Stretches for Knee Bursitis
    1. Heel Slide
    2. Quad sets
    3. Standing calf stretch
    4. Wall squat with a ball
  7. Final Thoughts 


What is Knee Bursitis?

Knee bursitis is an inflammation of a bursa in your knee. A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac that is situated near your knee joints and tendons. The main function of a bursa is to reduce friction by cushioning the muscles or tendons and bones that move back and forth across each other. The knee consists of up to 11 bursae and any of the bursae can become inflamed. However, knee bursitis usually occurs over the cap or on the inner side of your knee below the joint.

Knee bursitis often happens when a bursa is constantly irritated. Activities that require a lot of kneeling can trigger this condition. There are home remedies that could help make the inflammation go away. It is best if you rest the affected area and putting an ice pack on your knee. Taking anti-inflammatory medications can also help in alleviating the pain.

Knee Bursitis Symptoms

There are bursitis knee symptoms that you should look out for in order to determine whether you have the condition or not. When knee bursitis is caused by “mini-traumas” or those little but constant events that exceed the capacity of our knees to cope, symptoms may appear more slowly, over several days or weeks. Here are some of the symptoms for knee bursitis:

Rapid swelling on the front of the kneecap

Tenderness and warmth to the touch

Redness on the affected knee

Fever and illness

Causes limitation in joint movement (in severe cases)

Knee Bursitis Causes 

There are a number of possible causes of knee bursitis as well as certain factors that make some people more vulnerable in developing it. Some of these causes and factors include:

Repetitive and prolonged kneeling – As mentioned earlier, tasks and activities that need a lot of kneeling can trigger bursitis. People whose job requires kneeling such as those who install carpets and tiles, auto mechanics, plumbers, dancers, and athletes may be more at risk at developing bursitis.

Previous Injury – Damage to the prepatellar (kneecap) bursa which is caused by a trauma to the knee can result in knee bursitis. Blood will fill the prepatellar bursa and its lining will then become inflamed. Even though our body will reabsorb the blood, but the bursa lining may stay inflamed which may cause the bursitis symptoms.

Infection – It is possible that one can develop knee bursitis because of an infection. Some people with knee bursitis also have septic bursitis knee. This means that one of the prepatellar bursae is infected. The infection can reach the bursa through a cut, puncture, or an insect bite.

Another underlying condition – The bursa can become inflamed as a result of another underlying condition. It may include conditions such as knee osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or pseudogout.

Knee Bursitis Diagnosis

In order to diagnose knee bursitis, your physician will ask you questions regarding your medical history. The doctor may also give you a physical examination of your knee to determine if you have knee bursitis. He or she checks if there is localized swelling and if you feel tenderness over the bursa when pressure is applied. Knee bursitis is diagnosed based upon the typical location of a bursa displaying signs of inflammation. This may include knee pain, stiffness, redness, or warmth. The doctor may also use an MRI or Ultrasound to have a better diagnosis of your condition.

Knee Bursitis Treatment

After the diagnosis, the physician will determine the cause of your bursitis in order to give you the best knee bursitis treatment option. Here are some of the treatments available:

Anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs – This is usually taken to help alleviate the pain and swelling. This medicine is available with or without the doctor’s prescription. Before taking this medicine, always ask your physician if it is safe for you because this type of medication can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people.

Corticosteroid Injection – If the knee bursitis is persistent and not responding to the basic treatments, then your physician may recommend a corticosteroid injection. The doctor injects a corticosteroid drug in the bursa that was affected in order to reduce the inflammation. The inflamed linings of the bursa usually subside, but there might be pain and swelling from the injection site for a couple of days.

Physiotherapy – Undergoing physiotherapy treatment will reduce pain and inflammation. This is done with the application of electrical modalities, ice, therapeutic taping and education regarding activity modification. It will also normalize your knee joint range of motion and muscle lengths.

Draining of the Bursa – It is important to note that the more fluid builds up in the bursa, the more it swells, and the more it becomes painful. Your doctor can puncture the bursa with a hollow needle to draw out the excess fluid. Although it is not a permanent solution however it helps treat the inflammation. It might also cause short-term pain and swelling.

Surgery – If you have severe or recurrent bursitis and you do not respond to other treatments, you might consider getting surgery to remove the bursa.

Stretches for Knee Bursitis

Heel Slide

Heel slides were by far the most painful exercises that I did post-TKR surgery, but they were also the most rewarding exercise. For this exercise, you will need to lie on your back.knee experiencing bursitis should persist straight. Hold it for nearly six seconds, and then slowly uncurl it again. Rest for 10 seconds between reps and repeat in sets of 10 or 12.

Quad sets

The quad set is paramount to getting re-gaining quadriceps activation. To begin, sit on the floor with your bursitis knee loosened.

Using your thigh muscle to compress the back of your knee into the cloth. This helps you build and maintain strength in the flesh on top of your thigh. 

Standing calf stretch

You will need to be facing a wall for this exercise. Place your hands on the wall at eye level. Keep your bursitis leg planted, somewhat behind you, with your right leg bent in front. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat three times in each set.

Wall squat with a ball

Stand with your back to a wall and put a ball behind your back, balancing it by holding it against the wall with your back.

Final Thoughts 

Knee bursitis can be painful but you have a number of treatment options to choose from to help alleviate the pain. If you feel like you’re starting to experience symptoms of knee bursitis, it is best if you seek professional help from a doctor. If you’re looking for a pain management specialist in New Jersey, Dr. Ronak Patel can help you. All you need to do is to set up an appointment with him by calling his office at (609) 269-4451.

Dr. Ronak Patel is the founder and medical director of Regenerative Spine and Pain Institute. He is a double board-certified anesthesiologist and pain management specialist that provides professional services in New Jersey with service areas that include Princeton, Plainsboro Township, Hamilton Township, West Windsor Township, Robbinsville Township, and Manalapan.

You may schedule a meeting at any of the Regenerative Spine and Pain Institute clinics for the treatment of back pain, neck pain, joint pain, facial pain as well as cancer-related pain. Their focus is on developing inpidualized patient treatment plans and increasing patient functionality.


Disclaimer: Information on this website is not intended to be used in place of your professional medical advice or treatment. Please consult your doctor or healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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