Knee Bursitis

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The bursae of the knee are small fluid filled sacs that serve as shock absorbers between the muscles, tendons and skin of the joint and the adjacent bones. Knee bursitis is the medical condition that occurs when these sacs become inflamed. The usual causes of this condition are falling onto the knee, a direct blow to the joint or extended kneeling or squatting. Symptoms of knee bursitis are pain, swelling and unusual warmth of the skin over the knee joint, especially on its inner side. Treatment of knee bursitis may be less of a priority than symptom management, since the condition tends to resolve itself. However, options such as pain killers, knee pads and even corticosteroids may be considered if the condition is very painful.

Risk factors for developing knee bursitis include extensive participation in a sport in which you frequently fall onto a knee. Having a job that require extensive kneeling or squatting can also increase your exposure risk. Third, if you are obese or suffer from knee osteoarthritis, you may also be at increased risk of developing knee bursitis.

Knee Bursitis Causes

As mentioned, this condition can have many causes, including:

  • Being in a job that requires plenty of kneeling or squatting activity;
  • Being an athlete in a sport in which falling onto one or both knees is commonplace;
  • Receiving a hard blow directly to your knee;
  • A bacterial infection of the knee’s bursae is another possible cause;
  • Having osteoarthritis or gout of the knee can be another trigger for the development of knee arthritis.


As the diagram at the start of this article illustrates, there are different bursae in the knee joint. Your particular knee bursitis symptoms may differ depending on which bursae have been infected.

However, you can expect that the area over the affected bursae will feel  warm and tender to the touch.You my also experience pain in the same area when you try to move your knee.

If you develop knee bursitis from a sudden event (like a blow to your knee) , the appearance of symptoms will be just as sudden,. However, in most cases, the condition develops gradually over time (e.g. from prolonged day to day kneeling), and the symptoms also appear gradually.

How Can I Prevent The Onset Of Knee Bursitis?

If you work in a job or play a sport that puts you at risk of developing knee bursitis, you can reduce the odds of developing it by:

  • Wearing knee pads to cushion and/or protect your knees;
  • Change your work routine to avoid kneeling or squatting continually for long periods. Instead, intersperse short kneeling or squatting periods with intervals where you are standing normally doing something else;
  • If you are overweight, start a weight reduction program to bring your weight down to a healthy level. This will redue the pressure on your knees during those periods when you do have to squat.
  • Start a program of exercises to strengthen your leg and knee muscles. This will make them better prepared for long periods of squatting or kneeling that may otherwise cause knee bursitis. This may also be considered as a treatment option if you have already developed symptoms of knee bursitis.

Treatment Of Knee Bursitis

To have your bursitis treated, you should visit a doctor. However, in most cases, the symptoms noted above will eventually disappear, so your doctor may focus on managing your pain rather than curing the condition in the normal sense.

Treatment options are:

  • Antibiotic treatment if your physician feels that the bursitis is due to a bacterial infection;
  • If there is significant inflammation and the bursitis is not responding to medication or physical therapy,  your doctor may suggest corticosteroid injections to aggressively reduce the inflammation.
  • Aspiration of the bursae may also be considered. Under this procedure, your doctor will inject a needle into the affected bursae and draw out the inflammation. This technique can also be used as a diagnostic technique if your doctor believes you have a bacterial infection but is not sure of the type.
  • If the above approaches all fail, a surgeon can remove the infected bursae.

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