Knee Bursitis

Knee Bursitis occurs when inflammation develops in one of the knee bursa usually due to friction from repetitive movements like jumping and kicking or muscle tightness.  It results in pain and swelling, most commonly just below or behind the knee

Bursa are small fluid filled sacs that reduce the friction between 2 surfaces. They are found all over the body, and sit between bones and muscles, a bit like ball bearings. They allow the muscles to move freely as they contract and relax without being subjected to too much strain or friction.

Causes of Knee Bursitis

Common sites of Knee Bursitis

Bursitis of the knee arises when there is excessive pressure and friction on the bursa.

There are two main causes of this. Repeating the same movements over and over such as kneeling or squatting can cause the bursa to swell and become inflammed.

The other cause is muscle tightness. If a muscle is tight, it tends to push down on the bursa and squash it, which can lead to irritation.


The most common symptoms of bursitis of the knee are pain and swelling. Sometimes you can feel a squashy lump where the bursa has swollen. Symptoms often come and go and aren't always consistent.

Common Locations of Bursitis

Whilst bursitis can happen at any one of the 14 bursa knee locations, the 2 most common places for it are in the

1) Prepatellar bursa: This is found at the front of the knee, just below the kneecap. It is a common problem for people who spend long periods kneeling eg carpet layers/roofers. Irritation here is known as Housemaids Knee causing pain and swelling just below the knee

2) Semimembranosus bursa: Thisis found at the back of the knee. It is a common problem associated with arthritis. Irritation here is known as a Bakers Cyst causing swelling and pain behind the knee.

Click the links for more information on these conditions, including simple knee bursitis treatment techniques.

How Can I Avoid Bursitis of the Knee?

With any problem, prevention is better than cure. The best things you can do to avoid knee bursitis are to:

1) Ensure there is no muscle imbalance in the leg (weakness or tightness)
2) Wear Gel knee pads if kneeling for prolonged periods

Knee stretches ensure the muscles aren’t putting the bursa under any extra strain, and strengthening exercises ensure the forces go through joint correctly without putting extra pressure on the bursa. There are easy to follow exercises that can help you avoid bursitis of the knee, just click on the links above.

Gel Knee Pads reduce the forces going through the joint when kneeling and eliminate friction on the bursa.

Go to Common Knee Conditions or Homepage

Your Comments

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Updated 9th December 2014
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The material on this website is intended for educational information purposes only.  It should not substitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


See Also

Knee Pain Diagnosis: What is Causing My Pain?

Knee Braces: Would they help?

How can I strengthen my knee?

Learn about Knee Anatomy to better understand knee pain

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