Housemaids Knee

Author: Chloe Wilson - BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy

Key Facts

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, pain, redness, limited knee movement
Causes? Excessive kneeling, a blow to the front of the knee or fall
Treatment? PRICE, stretches, medication, gel knee pads, aspiration, injections
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.

The prepatellar bursa sits at the front of the knee between the kneecap and the overlying skin.

Here, we will look at the common causes, symptoms, treatment options and recovery process for Housemaids Knee.

Causes of Housemaids Knee

Housemaids knee is caused by inflammation of the prepatellar bursa

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 or repetitive kneeling causes friction and puts pressure on the bursa and kneecap. The bursa gradually gets inflamed and swells, becoming painful and putting pressure on the surrounding structures.  Nowadays it tends to affect tradesmen and gardeners 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.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Housemaids knee causes swelling at the front of the knee around the patella

The most common symptom of prepatellar bursitis 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 prepatellar bursitis 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.

Treating Prepatellar Bursitis

There are a number of treatment options for Prepatellar Bursitis.  These include:

1) PRICE: Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. Helps to reduce pain and swelling and speeds up recovery. Visit the PRICE section 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 prepatellar bursitis 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

Gel knee pads can help reduce pain when kneeling if you suffer from prepatellar bursitis

4) Avoid Aggravating Activities: e.g. kneeling and squatting to reduce pressure on the bursa

5) Gel Pads: excellent for eliminating the pain and irritation when you do have to kneel.  Visit the gel knee pad section to find out more.

6) Ice /Heat: also help to reduce the swelling and pain from prepatellar bursitis. Visit the Ice section to find out how to safely and effectively use ice or the ice wrap section for different ways to apply ice

7) Aspiration: where the doctor drains the fluid out of the bursa with a needle

8) Injections: Cortisone injections into the bursa can help to reduce swelling and pain associated with prepatellar bursitis

9) Antibiotics: will be prescribed if the knee bursitis is due to infection

10) Surgery: Very rarely, surgery is required to remove the bursa

The Recovery Process

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.

Not Sounding Quite Like Your Pain?

Another common place to get bursitis is at the back of the knee, where there is inflammation of the popliteal bursa.  You can find out more in the Bakers Cyst section.

There are a number of other causes of front knee pain other than Housemaids Knee. If you want some help working out what is causing your pain, visit the Diagnose Your Pain section.

Go to Common Knee Conditions or Knee Pain Guide


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