Bursitis of the knee is simply an inflammation of one or more of the bursae that are located near the knee. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that is located around the joints of the body.
The function of a bursa makes it possible for any bursa to become inflamed; it is most common in the bursa over the kneecap or on the inside part of the knee joint.
The symptoms of knee bursitis can vary from person to person. Also, the particular location of the affected bursa will determine the type and severity of the symptoms experienced. However, most patients suffering from knee bursitis report that the affected knee feels warm to the touch and appears noticeably swollen. The pain associated with knee bursitis usually occurs when the knee joint is moved or if pressure is applied directly to the inflamed area.
Most cases of knee bursitis are caused by repetitive injuries to the bursa. Jobs that require frequent kneeling, such as installing flooring, increase the risk of developing knee bursitis. Another common cause of knee bursitis is direct trauma to the knee. It is common for soccer and football players to develop knee bursitis due to the physical nature of the sport. Other less common causes of knee bursitis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and bacterial infection. It is important to note that excessive body weight also seems to increase the risk of knee bursitis.
The diagnosis of knee bursitis is often reached by taking a detailed medical history and performing a physical examination. If your physician feels that it is necessary to rule out more serious causes, her or she may recommend further diagnostic testing. MRIs, X-rays and ultrasounds are commonly ordered tests. If your physician suspects an infection, he or she may perform a needle aspiration in which a small sample of the liquid is removed from the knee and analyzed.
If you are diagnosed with knee bursitis, the first form of treatment is to rest the knee in order to reduce the inflammation. Ice application and compression will also aid in the reduction of swelling. If these conservative treatments are unsuccessful, medications may be prescribed. Corticosteroid injection directly into the affected bursa may help to reduce the inflammation. Antibiotics may be prescribed if infection is suspected. Physical therapy may also be suggested by your doctor to help increase the flexibility and strength of the knee which may reduce the risk of recurrence. In very rare cases of chronic knee bursitis, the surgical removal of the bursa is required.
As I always say, prevention is the best treatment. There are a few prevention strategies that you can keep in mind while performing physical tasks. First of all, take frequent breaks to rest and stretch out your legs. Avoid extended periods of time on your knees. Wearing protective knee pads during high-risk activities or while kneeling will also reduce your risk. Finally, avoid repetitive or excessive bending of the knees which places significant strain and pressure on the bursae.
Although knee bursitis is not a life-threatening condition, it can become very debilitating if left untreated. If you suspect that you are suffering from knee bursitis and have tried these self-help tips, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.