Key Points about Knee Bursitis

  • Knee bursitis occurs when the sac of fluid in the knee, called the bursa, becomes inflamed.
  • The main symptoms of knee bursitis are pain and limited mobility in the knee joint.
  • Common causes of knee bursitis include frequent kneeling, a direct hit to the knee, an infection in the bursa, or overuse of the knees.
  • Knee bursitis can be treated with a mix of home remedies and medical procedures that aim to ease inflammation and reduce symptoms.
Common related conditions
Knee Arthritis Knee Dislocation Knee Fractures Conditions Quadriceps Tendonitis

Overview

Around the knee joint, there are several small sacs filled with fluid, called bursa, which help regulate friction and pressure among all the moving parts in the knee joint. Knee bursitis occurs when one or more of these sacs become inflamed, leading to knee pain and limited mobility of the knee joint.

Knee bursitis can be caused by frequent kneeling on hard surfaces, a direct hit to the knee, an infection in the bursa, or overuse of the knee joints. Treatment for this condition involves mitigating inflammation and pain through a mix of home remedies and medical procedures.

Call your doctor if your knee pain is accompanied by a fever and swelling in the joint.   

Knee bursitis causes

Possible causes of knee bursitis include:

  • Recurring stress on the knee, particularly from kneeling
  • Overuse of the knee joints
  • Direct trauma to the knee joint
  • Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • A bacterial infection in the bursa

Knee bursitis risk factors

You may be more likely to develop knee bursitis if you:

  • Have an occupation that requires frequent kneeling, such as gardening or plumbing
  • Are obese and have osteoarthritis
  • Play a sport that involves falling on the knees frequently, such as football

Knee bursitis symptoms

The main symptom of knee bursitis is pain in the knee, which may be accompanied by:

  • Warmth
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling

The pain in knee bursitis often develops slowly and increases over time with continued use of the joints.

Knee bursitis prevention

You can lower your risk of developing knee bursitis by:

  • Avoiding repeated kneeling and squatting, if possible
  • Losing weight if you are overweight, to reduce stress on the knees
  • Wearing kneepads during sports or other activities that involve frequent kneeling

Knee bursitis diagnosis

When assessing whether knee bursitis is the cause of your knee pain, your doctor will review your medical history and examine the affected knee, looking for:

  • Redness, warmth, tenderness or swelling in or around the knee
  • Any signals of an infection
  • Limited range of motion of the knee joint

Your doctor may also order imaging tests such as:

  • X-ray
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI scan

Knee bursitis treatment

Treatment for knee bursitis aims to alleviate pain. Your doctor may recommend resting and icing the knees, taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, and avoiding kneeling and other activities that cause pain.

Your doctor may also provide you with physical therapy exercises to promote flexibility and muscle strength. If your knee bursitis is caused by a bacterial infection, you will be given antibiotics.

Other treatments your doctor may provide include:

  • Corticosteroid injections, to decrease inflammation
  • Bursa aspiration, to drain fluid from the bursa and reduce inflammation
  • Surgery, for bursa removal, if other methods are unsuccessful at treating pain

When to seek care

Call your doctor if you develop a fever and swelling in the joint, in addition to knee pain.

Next Steps

Your doctor will help set up a treatment plan for knee bursitis that works best for you.