What is knee bursitis?  

Knee bursitis occurs when the bursa (fluid-filled sacs) in or around the knee joint become inflamed. Symptoms of knee bursitis are pain and limited mobility. Bursitis in the knee is also called pes anserine bursitis. 

Causes of knee bursitis

  • Overuse — the most common cause of knee bursitis is overuse of the hamstrings. Runners often develop this condition by improper training, increases in distance of running and running up hill.
  • Previous knee injuries — previous injury can damage the prepatellar bursa. This could cause the bursa to fill with blood and become inflamed.

Risk factors for knee bursitis

  • Running — runners are at a higher risk for developing knee bursitis.
  • Arthritis — women with osteoarthritis are at a higher risk for developing bursitis in the knee.
  • Obesity

Symptoms of knee bursitis

  • Pain when the knee is bent that radiates from inner thigh to mid-calf
  • Pain is more intense at night
  • Limited mobility
  • Stiffness in the knee joint

Diagnosis of knee bursitis

Knee bursitis is diagnosed in a physical exam with your primary care or orthopedic physician. The physician may order an x-ray, MRI or ultrasound to determine if you have more extensive injuries that need alternative treatments.

If the doctor suspects an infection, he or she may insert a needle into the affected area to drain the fluid or take a sample to test it.

Treatments for knee bursitis

Treatments for knee bursitis are aimed at relieving the symptoms while the condition heals. Depending on the cause of the knee bursitis, your provider may recommend any of the following nonsurgical treatments:
  • Medication — antibiotics could be prescribed depending on cause of the knee bursitis.
  • Orthotics — cushioned insoles in the shoes can help you absorb the shock in your knees.
  • Splint/Brace — wearing a brace can alleviate pain associated with knee bursitis through compression and warmth; the brace can also help with knee stability.
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation — your physical therapist will work with you to design exercises that will help you improve knee or hip strength and flexibility.
  • Steroid injection — a corticosteroid injection can provide temporary relief (weeks or months).
  • Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection — PRP therapy helps expedite healing by using a patient’s blood platelets to facilitate healing in the knee.
  • Ultrasound-guided percutaneous needle tenotomy (PNT) — an ultrasound-guided percutaneous needle tenotomy is a procedure where a needle is advanced through the skin to make small holes in a tendon.

Although surgery is not typically required for knee bursitis, if nonsurgical options have failed, the physician can remove the bursa.

Your doctor can remove the bursa arthroscopically through small incisions. Arthroscopic surgery for bursitis in the knee is less invasive and recovery is quicker.

Recovery from knee bursitis

Recovery from knee bursitis typically improves within a few weeks if you stop doing what caused the pain. It is important to follow your physician’s instructions in order to fully recover and resume your day-to-day activities as quickly as possible.

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