Knee Bursitis

Are you suffering from painful sensations in your knee which seem to worsen with walking or kneeling? Watch out, for these are the primary signs of a common painful disorder of the knee, known as Knee Bursitis. Get detailed information about the disorder, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.

What is Knee Bursitis?

It is a condition in which the bursa in the kneecap area becomes inflamed. The inflammation can arise at the back, front or the inner sides of the kneecap. The condition may cause intense pain in the kneecap and restricts the mobility and range. Runners are more prone to the syndrome if they avoid warming and stretching up before running on hills or increasing the mileage.

The ailment is also known as ‘Bursitis of the knee.’

Knee Bursitis Incidence

According to medical surveys, the syndrome affects 25% women and 30% men. The disorder is prevalent among volleyball players and wrestlers who rub their knees frequently.

Knee Bursitis Types

According to medical practitioners, the disorder is broadly classified into 4 types:

Picture of Knee Bursitis

Picture 1 - Knee Bursitis

  • Prepatellar Bursits
  • Suprapatellar Bursitis
  • Pes anserine Bursitis
  • Infrapatellar Bursitis

Knee Bursitis Causes

The knee joint in human body has 11 fluid filled sacs (bursas) intended to minimize the friction of the tendons, bones and the muscles adjacent to the joints. An affected patient finds it difficult to perform the daily activities due to constant pain and reduced mobility. There are several factors which can contribute to the growth of bursitis knee, including:

  • Direct hit to the knee area. It occurs when people fall on their bent knees which are quite common in sports such as wrestling or football.
  • A few medical conditions such as arthritis, rheumatoid or gout may also give rise to bursitis of the knee.
  • In a few rare cases, people are not aware of the exact reason for the occurrence of the syndrome.
  • Prolonged pressure on the knees, as commonly occurs during scrubbing the floor or carpet, can also give rise to the ailment.
  • A few infections may also lead to bursitis in the knee.
  • Overuse or excessive use of the knee, which is common during motion sports such as running or jumping, may also result in this problem.

Knee Bursitis Symptoms

The symptoms of this disease tend to vary from one patient to another depending on the exact cause of the inflammation. This is a long-term disorder and may occur rapidly due to infections or a sudden hard blow to the knee. Bursitis in the knee occurring due to repetitive injuries may gradually worsen with time. The affected part of the knee may:

  • Have decreased movement and become stiff. The affected knee may not move as usual.
  • Feel swollen or warm on touching if the bursa in the knee is infected.
  • Feel severely painful or tender, especially during kneeling or walking. Pain may increase while doing any exercise which has repetitive knee movements or climbing stairs.
  • Swell severely, especially the top section

Knee Bursitis Diagnosis

The diagnosis of this condition is based on the location of the bursa which displays various symptoms such as stiffness, pain, tenderness and warmth. Generally, the diagnosis of the bursitis knee can be confirmed by a physical exam. However, doctors recommend various other clinical tests to rule out a few medical problems and determine the presence of infection in the body of patients. In order to determine the cause of the signs and symptoms, doctors recommend a number of imaging tests including:

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

It is one of the common imaging tests which display detailed images of the various structures inside the body, by using a strong magnetic field along with radio waves. This clinical procedure is effective in visualizing the soft tissues known as bursae.


Alhough X-rays help to determine the existence of tumors, bone fracture or arthritis in the body of patients, they cannot be used to visualize bursae.


This medical procedure is recommended by doctors to have a better image of the swelling of the affected bursa. Since the sound waves used in ultrasound imaging produce real time images, the process helps doctors to visualize the inflammation in a better way. In a few cases, doctors use ultrasound to put a needle in the bursa and drain the excess fluid from the affected part.

Knee Bursitis treatment

Doctors recommend a number of treatment approaches for the patient, depending on its location of occurrence and its exact cause. The treatment plan for the condition may include:


It is a four-step treatment strategy used to reduce the swelling of the knee and heal it. It can be broadly defined as:


It is considered to be the most significant step in healing the bursitis of the knee and curing the patient. In order to prevent the disorder from getting worse and swollen, adequate rest should be taken. Initiate slow movements when pain decreases considerably.


Doctors recommend the usage of ice for 2-3 days. Ice constricts the blood vessels which reduces the swelling.


Health care providers may recommend patients to wrap the affected knee with an elastic bandage or tape and prevent it from further swelling. If the toe starts turning blue, the elastic bandage should be loosened.


Raising the affected knee above the heart level may reduce the swelling and help to cure the syndrome.

Physical therapy

Few physical therapies advised by caregivers that are ideal for bursitis knee treatment, may include:


In a few cases, doctors may aspirate the bursa to minimize the inflammation and reduce the additional fluid. The excess fluid is drawn out by injecting a needle directly in the bursa and extracting it in the syringe. However, aspiration may give rise to temporary swelling and pain.

Physical therapy

Caregivers often refer patients to any health specialist or physical therapist for better results. Such professionals can alleviate the pain and minimize the risk of reoccurrence of knee bursitis. Therapists recommend a number of stretching exercises which strengthen the muscles and enhance the flexibility of the knee.


Doctors often recommend removal of the affected bursa with the help of a surgery, if a patient is suffering from chronic or septic knee bursitis and do not respond to other medical treatments.

Knee Bursitis Medications

A few medications, which are recommended by doctors for the treatment of a bursitis knee may include:

Image of Knee Bursitis

Picture 2 - Knee Bursitis Image


Doctors prescribe an antibiotic therapy, if the bursitis in the knee is caused due to infection.

Corticosteroid injection

In order to reduce the inflammation, caregivers inject corticosteroid drug in the affected bursa and provide immediate relief to the patient. Though the inflammation subsidies very quickly, the affected patient may experience swelling along with pain for the next few day due to the corticosteroids.

Knee Bursitis Prevention

This knee disorder is generally caused due to any athletic activity or wound. However, caregivers advise a number of measures to prevent the disorder from getting worse. Such measures include:

Taking breaks

It is mandatory to take regular breaks if you are applying pressure on your knee for a long period. Stretch your legs and give adequate rest to your knees in order to prevent the occurrence of the bursitis knee.

Wearing kneepads

Caregivers advise patients to wear padding knee cushions, if they have active participation in sports where the knees are at risk.

Avoid squatting

Repetitive or excessive squatting exercise increases the pressure on the knee joints and gives rise to bursitis. Hence, excessive squatting should be avoided.

Knee Bursitis Prognosis

The prognosis of the syndrome is considered to be very good since mild bursitis gets cured with rest. Severe form of bursitis requires medication to reduce the swelling.

Knee Bursitis Risk Factors

Bursitis of the knee is a common disorder. However, a few factors may increase the risk of developing the syndrome. People having an impaired immune system or severe medical conditions are more prone to septic knee bursitis. Such medical conditions, which can give rise to bursitis knee, may include lupus, cancer, alcoholism, diabetes and HIV.


Knee bursitis is a common disorder, generally affecting the athletes and sportsmen. In rare cases, the bursitis occurs due to infection of the bursa. If you are experiencing the symptoms of the disorder along with fever and pain in your knees, consult your healthcare provider immediately. Do not neglect it, for it can give rise to severe complications at a later stage.


By    Last updated December 22nd, 2012

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