Knee Bursitis: Symptoms and Causes
Bursitis of the knee is a condition that can cause a significant amount of pain and functional disability. Although the condition is not usually associated with a severe acute injury episode, the pain can result in loss of use of the knee joint or inability to participate in sport or work activities. Hence, bursitis of the knee can result in the need to seek medical treatment.
What is Knee Bursitis?
The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that lies in between 2 surfaces at the joint to help cushion or reduce friction during movement of the knee joint. The bursa can lie in between bone and tendon, tendon and skin or skin and bone. Therefore, bursitis is painful as there is movement between these structures where the bursa is located becomes inflamed.
What causes Knee Bursitis?
Knee bursitis is often caused by excessive and repetitive action. For example, excessive kneeling on the floor causes pre-patellar bursitis at the front of the knee. Runners can have iliotibial band bursitis at the outer side of the knee. Other causes of bursitis can be due to degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis or as a later consequence of a fall onto the knee. There are some patients that can present with bursitis caused by an infection of the bursa due to inoculation of bacteria into the bursa itself.
Symptoms of Knee Bursitis
Pain is the main symptom. The other symptoms are swelling, inflammation and warmth around the joint.
Those who are involved in endurance sports such as long-distance running or cycling are most at risk. The reason is the repetition and cyclical movements at the knee joint that causes excessive friction forces of the bursa. Another group who are more prone are those who engage in repetitive squatting and kneeling at work.
How can you prevent this injury or prevent it from worsening?
If you are a runner or cyclist, injury prevention starts with using the proper equipment. Next is to ensure proper conditioning of the body and adopting a realistic exercise schedule based on one’s physical ability. Proper rest is also essential to ensure that the knee can recover in between exercise sessions. Similarly, workplace ergonomics and safety practices are necessary to ensure that work is carried out with a proper body posture and enough rest is allowed.
When should you see a doctor?
All cases of bursitis with pain, swelling and inflammation that limits or restricts the use of the knee joint should be reviewed by a doctor.
Dr. Ooi Lai Hock is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Medical Director of Island Orthopaedic. He holds dual sub-specialty areas of expertise in foot and ankle surgery, as well as hip and knee surgery, after receiving his sub-specialty training at the Perth Orthopaedic Institute, Australia.