Last reviewed on 16 January 2024 by Danniel Jacques (B.Med.Sci UNSW)
What is Knee Bursitis?
Within and around the knee lie several small cushion like structure called bursae. A bursa allows different tissue types within the knee (such as bones, muscles and tendons) to move smoothly across each other which reduces friction and irritation from occurring in the knee.
When one of these bursae becomes inflamed due to injury they can fill with fluid causing pain and swelling in the knee. This condition is called knee bursitis.
There are four main areas of the knee where bursitis in the knee will occur. These are classified by the region of the knee they affect, and are named as follows;
What Causes Knee Bursitis?
Bursitis in the knee is normally a result of either trauma due to an impact injury, overuse through work or sports or age related wear and tear. Another less recognized cause can be due to post operative irritation in the knee.
There are also certain jobs where individuals may be more susceptible to developing bursitis in the knee as they require long periods where kneeling on hard surfaces is required. These jobs may include carpenters, plumbers, gardeners and cleaners. In fact prepatellar bursitis is also known as housemaid’s knee.
What are the Symptoms of Knee Bursitis?
Symptoms and signs may include;
- A visible lump on the knee
- Mild to extreme knee pain
- Knee pain at nights while you sleep,
- Pain in the knee when walking or running,
- Localized swelling and tenderness
- Possible knee pain at rest.
Bursitis can occur equally in either knee and may initially present as either right knee pain or left knee pain.
How is Knee Bursitis Diagnosed?
Due to there being several conditions that may present as knee bursitis it is best to visit a qualified medical professional for a proper diagnosis.
To properly diagnose knee bursitis your doctor will likely get you to have both an x-ray and ultra sound of the knee. If there is an infection suspected then a blood test and maybe an aspiration of the synovial fluid may be required for testing and culturing.
In some cases an MRI may also be required to rule out any co-exist conditions that may have contributed to the condition.