Housemaids Knee

Written By: Chloe Wilson, BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed by: KPE Medical Review Board

Housemaids Knee - find out about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of prepatellar bursitis

What is Housemaids Knee? Inflammation of the prepatellar bursa (small fluid filled sac) at the front of the knee

AKA? Prepatellar bursitis

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 with correct treatment

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

What Is Housemaids Knee?

Housemaids Knee is the most common form of knee bursitis

Housemaids knee is caused by inflammation of the prepatellar bursa

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 fill with fluid. This is known as bursitis.

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

When the prepatellar bursa gets irritated from friction or pressure, it produces extra fluid to protect the knee joint and this swelling is known as prepatellar bursitis, or more commonly, Housemaids Knee.

Causes of Housemaids Knee

The most common cause of Housemaids knee is repetitive kneeling which causes friction and puts pressure on the bursa and kneecap. 

Frequent kneeling is a common cause of prepatellar bursitis, and nowadays, Housemaids Knee is more likely to affect tradesmen or gardeners than housewives

The bursa gradually gets inflamed and swells, becoming painful and putting pressure on the surrounding structures. 

Nowadays Housemaids Knee tends to affect tradesmen and gardeners more than housemaids, thanks to the hoover! 

Prepatellar bursitis 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

The most common symptom of prepatellar bursitis is swelling at the front of the knee, a bit like a small squashy orange.

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

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 Housemaids Knee including:

  1. PRICE: PRICE is a great treatment tool to help reduce pain and swelling with housemaids knee and it helps to speed up recovery. It stands for Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.Visit the PRICE section to find out how to use it safely and effectively

  2. Medication: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) can also help to reduce the swelling and pain associated with prepatellar bursitis. You should always check with your doctor before taking medications

  3. Stretching: Prepatellar bursitis is often aggravated by tight muscles in the leg, so stretching these muscles out relieves the pressure on the bursa so it stops producing excess fluid.

    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: It really helps to avoid activities that place pressure on the kneecap and prepatellar bursa e.g. kneeling and squatting

  5. Gel Knee Pads: If you do have to kneel, wearing gel knee pads can make all the difference with bursitis. They take the pressure off the bursa and are excellent for eliminating pain and irritation when you do have to kneel.  Visit the gel knee pad section to find out more

  6. Ice: Ice is a great natural treatment tool to help to reduce the swelling and pain from prepatellar bursitis, however if used incorrectly, it can actually make things worse. 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: If the swelling in the prepatellar bursa becomes extreme, then your doctor can drain the fluid out of the bursa with a needle, known as aspiration

  8. Steroid Injections: Cortisone injections into the bursa can help to reduce swelling and pain associated with housemaids knee. You can find out more in the knee injections section

  9. Antibiotics: If your housemaids knee is due to an infection, your doctor will prescribe you antibiotics. Usually after around three days of taking them, you should notice the symptoms starting to improve

  10. Surgery: Very occasionally, if all other treatments have failed and the prepatellar bursitis is causing significant problems, then surgery is required to remove the bursa

The Recovery Process

Generally, housemaids knee settles within a few weeks, if treated correctly. 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?

The prepatellar bursa isn't the only bursa found at the front of the knee - the infrapatellar bursa sits slightly below the knee around the patellar tendon. If your pain and swelling is slightly below the knee rather than right over the front of the kneecap, have a look at the infrapatellar bursitis section.

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.

Page Last Updated: 10/12/21
Next Review Due: 10/12/23

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