What is Housemaids knee? Inflammation of the bursa (small fluid filled sac) at the front of the knee
Symptoms? Swelling at the front of the knee
Causes? Excessive kneeling, blow to the front of the knee
Treatment? PRICE, stretches, medication, gel knee pads
Recovery? Usually settles in a few weeks
Other names? Prepatellar bursitis or knee bursitis
Bursa are small fluid filled sacs found all over the body. Their job is to prevent friction between bone and soft tissues (muscles, tendons, skin and ligaments). When there is a lot of stress on a bursa, they often swell, and this is known as bursitis.
Housemaids Knee is the most common form of knee bursitis and is caused by the inflammation (swelling) of the Prepatellar Bursa which sits in front of the knee cap.
Prolonged and/or repetitive kneeling causes friction and puts pressure on the bursa and kneecap. Nowadays it tends to affect tradesmen more than housemaids, thanks to the hoover!
It can also be caused by a direct blown or fall onto the front of the knee. Occasionally it is caused by an infection. You are at increased risk of developing bursitis of the knee if you have an underlying inflammatory condition such as rheumatoid arthritis.
The most common symptom is swelling at the front of the knee, a bit like a small squashy orange. It may cause pain and redness over the front of the knee and make it difficult to bend the leg, kneel down or walk.
Usually the doctor will be able to diagnose it just by looking at your leg - it doesn’t require an x-ray or MRI. If the likely cause is an infection, the doctor will remove some of the fluid and have it tested, and you may then be given antibiotic.
1) PRICE: Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. Helps to reduce pain and swelling and speeds up recovery. Click the link to find out how to use it safely and effectively
2) Medication: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) can help to reduce the swelling and pain
3) Stretching: often Housemaids Knee is aggravated by tight muscles in the leg. To check if your muscles are tight and to find out how to stretch them, visit the Housemaids Knee Stretches section to help reduce your pain and speed up your recovery.
4) Avoid aggravating activities: eg kneeling and squatting
5) Gel Pads: excellent for eliminating the pain and irritation when you do have to kneel
7) Aspiration: where the doctor drains the fluid out of the bursa with a needle
8) Injections: Cortisone injection into the bursa helps to reduce swelling and pain
9) Antibiotics: will be prescribed if the knee bursitis is due to infection
10) Surgery: Very rarely surgery is required to remove the bursa
Generally, Housemaids Knee will settle within a few weeks. If you have already had it, it is advisable to avoid kneeling on hard surfaces by using some sort of cushioning such as gel pads to prevent recurrence.
Another common place to get bursitis of the knee is at the back of the knee – known as a Bakers Cyst.
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Updated 12th March 2014
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