Knee Bursitis

By Sally Ann Quirke, Chartered Physiotherapist | Filed under: Bursitis


Knee Bursitis

Knee bursitis occurs most commonly in carpenters, builders, gardeners and cleaners. Let me explain further.

The reason for this is that the cause of knee bursitis is often due to kneeling for excess periods of time. The most common form of knee bursitis is pre-patellar bursitis. This is when the bursa at the top of your knee becomes inflamed, swollen and sometimes infected. It is also called “housemaid’s knee”, as it is associated with kneeling occupations. However, some of my male patients don’t like being labelled with “housemaid’s knee”!

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Symptoms of Knee Bursitis

Knee bursitis means that the bursa in your knee - red, hot and swollen. It is usually visible but not always. It is painful, and the affected area will be quite tender. It is usually associated with pain at the top of your knee when kneeling, climbing stairs, getting up from sitting and when direct pressure is placed on the top of your knee cap. It can occur in conjunction with tendonitis and can often be missed in diagnosis.

So if you have localised pain and tenderness to the top of your kneecap seek a medical opinion immediately. Early intervention can save you weeks of pain and weeks off work!

Treatment of Knee Bursitis

Knee Bursitis usually resolves with rest and the application of ice on the affected area - and in most cases it does. However, if you find that your bursitis does not respond to ice and rest, then I advice you to go check with your Physio or your Doctor.

Medical intervention is normally required where the bursitis is extremely painful and is chronic. Typical examples of where medical intervention is used to treat burisitis are:

  • Cortisone injection a strong anti-inflammatory drug applied directly to the bursa. It can be very effective in the treatment of bursitis.
  • Anti-biotic treatment if the bursa has become infected. If this is the case, then the sooner it is identified and you are prescribed an anti-biotic treatment, the better.
  • Aspirate (drain) the knee. Inserting a needle into the affected bursa to draw excess fluid out.
  • Surgery - In the more severe cases where knee bursitis is common, surgery is required. This is where the bursa is removed. In my opinion surgery should be avoided unless all else fails.

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Treatment of knee bursitis involves treating the cause as well as the symptoms.

What I think is important to say is that having treated the symptoms, if you do not address the cause of your knee bursitis it may return again. Actually, it is almost guaranteed that it will return again.

Identifying and treating the underlying cause of bursitis can be a bit more challenging and normally requires expert advice.

Common causes of knee bursitis are muscle imbalances, one muscle is too strong and another too weak. Attend a good Chartered Physiotherapist, and they can investigate as to whether muscle imbalances are present and advise on exercises that will resolve this problem.

If the cause of your bursitis is due to kneeling a lot, then taking regular breaks to stand up and perform some exercises in conjunction with the use of knee pads will help. These are pads which attach to your knee and protect your knees against the hardness of the floor. They can be very effective indeed and many of my carpenter and carpet fitter patients use them to protect themselves.

If you get reoccurring knee bursitis, then seek the help of a Chartered Physiotherapist, as the more often that you suffer from bursitis the more damage that is being done to your knee. Do your exercises and take your physiotherapist advice seriously


While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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