Knee bursitis occurs when there is irritation or inflammation in one of the knee bursa.
Bursa are small fluid filled sacs that reduce the friction between two 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.
Bursitis of the knee results in pain and swelling, most commonly just below, behind or on the side of the knee.
Here, we will look at the following aspects of knee bursitis:
Common causes of knee bursitis include:
The most common symptoms of knee bursitis are:
Symptoms of bursitis knee often come and go and aren't always consistent which can make it hard to accurately diagnose specific knee bursitis. Sometimes it is only once other conditions have been ruled out that bursitis of the knee is finally diagnosed.
There are approximately eleven knee bursa located around the joint and bursitis can develop at any one of the bursa knee locations.
The six most common types of knee bursitis are:
The prepatellar bursa is found directly in front of the knee cap, just underneath the skin.
Irritation here is known as Prepatellar Bursitis, or more commonly Housemaids Knee, causing pain and swelling at the front of the knee.
Prepatellar knee bursitis is a common problem for people who spend long periods kneeling e.g. carpet layers/roofers because of the continuous pressure going through the prepatellar bursa.
You can find out more about the common causes, symptoms and treatment options in the Housemaids Knee section.
Pes Anserine bursitis occurs on the inner side of the knee. The pes anserine bursa sits between the medial collateral ligament and the conjoined medial knee tendons of the gracilis, sartorius and semitendinosus muscles.
Pes Anserine bursitis of the knee usually develops from overuse and most commonly affects runners.
You can find out more about the common causes, symptoms and best treatment options in the Pes Anserine Bursitis section.
Semimembranosus bursitis causes pain and swelling behind the knee, often resembling a squashy orange, more commonly known as a Bakers Cyst or Popliteal Cyst.
The popliteal bursa sits behind the knee between one of the hamstring tendons, semimembranosus, and the gastrocnemius calf muscle at the back of the knee.
You can find out all about the common causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options in the Bakers Cyst Knee section.
Infrapatellar bursitis occurs just below the kneecap and is often referred to as Clergyman's knee.
There are two knee bursa that may be involved
Swelling of either knee bursa is referred to as infrapatellar bursitis. You can find out loads more about diagnosis and treatment in the infrapatellar bursitis section.
Suprapatellar bursitis causes pain and swelling in the lower thigh, just above the kneecap. The suprapatellar bursa sits between the quadriceps muscle tendon and the patella.
Suprapatellar knee bursitis is usually caused by overuse from sporting activities involving lots of running and jumping, or from frequent kneeling.
You can find out all about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options in the suprapatellar bursitis section.
Iliotibial bursitis occurs on the outer side of the knee. The iliotibial bursa sits between the iliotibial band and the outer shin bone, just below the knee.
Inflammation of the iliotibial bursa is often misdiagnosed as iliotibial band syndrome.
Knee bursitis treatment will vary slightly depending on which bursa is affected but usually involves a combination of:
Bursitis knee symptoms usually settle within a few weeks with effective treatment. As mentioned, treatment varies depending on which bursa is affected, and you can find out more about the most common types of bursitis including treatment options and the recovery process:
With any problem, prevention is better than cure. The best things you can do to avoid knee bursitis are to:
If knee bursitis isn't sounding quite like your problem, visit the knee pain diagnosis section for helping working out what is wrong and the best way to treat your pain and stop it coming back.
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Page Last Updated: 05/10/23
Next Review Due: 05/10/25