Bursitis is a common condition of the knee that causes pain and stiffness. Learn how to tell if you have bursitis and how to deal with it.

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Bursitis is a painful condition that develops when one of the fluid-filled sacs in your body (bursae) becomes inflamed. There are bursae throughout your body, like your elbow, shoulder, heel, and hip. The bursae located around the knees can be particularly susceptible to inflammation. If you have knee pain that’s accompanied by swelling or redness, you may have bursitis of the knee.

What is bursitis?

Bursae are small sacs of fluid that cushion and protect the joints, helping to reduce friction between bones. Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa, which can cause pain, swelling and stiffness.

Knee bursitis can occur as a result of overuse or injury.

Bursitis of the knee can occur as a result of overuse or injury, such as when you land directly on your knee after falling. This type of bursitis is common in people who play sports, such as basketball and soccer, or do heavy manual labor.

Two common locations for bursitis in the knee: prepatellar bursitis and pes bursitis

Prepatellar bursa, located on top of the kneecap: It can get inflamed due to overuse or direct trauma (such as falling directly on your knees).

Pes anserine bursa, located along the medial portion of the upper leg, just below your knee. Inflammation here is usually caused by overuse.

What are the symptoms of bursitis of the knee?

Bursitis of the knee is characterized by pain, swelling and tenderness in the joint. The pain is usually worse when you move your leg or extend it straight out. It may also be more intense at night than during the day.

If you experience warmth or redness of the bursa, especially if they are getting worse, those can be signs of a septic bursitis, or an infection of the bursa, and it should be evaluated quickly by a doctor or orthopedic surgeon.

How is it diagnosed?

Bursitis of the knee is usually diagnosed based on history and physical examination.

Physical examination can demonstrate swelling or tenderness at the bursa, as well as pain when pressing on it. X-rays are usually unremarkable, but MRI may be needed if there is any concern for other causes of knee pain such as osteoarthritis or ligament injury (sprain).


Treatment options can include:

  • Resting the affected joint until it improves
  • Using ice packs to help reduce swelling and pain
  • Wearing knee pads when working on the ground or floor
  • Occasionally an orthopedic surgeon will inject steroids into the bursa to decrease inflammation. Or he or she might perform surgery to remove the bursa completely, especially if there is sign of infection.


Bursitis is a common condition that can be painful and difficult to treat. It can affect anyone, but it often affects people who subject their knees to a repetitive movement, such as carpenters or mechanics who kneel a lot. Treatment for bursitis depends on the severity of symptoms and includes rest, ice packs and physical therapy exercises. If you think you may have knee bursitis a doctor can help you overcome it.

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