Knee Bursitis

What is Knee Bursitis?

Knee bursitis refers to the inflammation of the bursa or a small sac filled with fluid and present close to the knee joint. The function of the bursa is cushioning the pressure points and minimizing friction between the tendons, bones, skin, and muscles. A lump-like structure on the front portion of the knee indicates bursitis. The body of an adult may contain about 140 bursae. However, the prepatellar bursa present at the front part of the knee between the patella bone and the skin is more prone to develop bursitis.

The prepatellar bursa produces fluid in excess when inflamed. This fluid deposits in the bursa sac, making it swollen. The swollen and inflamed prepatellar bursa causes the front part of the knee to swell and appear like a lump. The bursa becomes inflamed due to an injury, irritation, or an underlying condition.

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Knee bursitis refers to the inflammation of the bursa or a small sac filled with fluid and present close to the knee joint.

Symptoms of Knee Bursitis:

The commonest symptom of bursitis is swelling of the kneecap. When trauma or infection causes bursitis, the symptoms and the inflammation can appear fast. However, when repeated kneeling causes bursitis, the symptoms may appear over many days or weeks.  The other signs and symptoms of bursitis are.

  • Swelling of the front part of the knee

The inflamed prepatellar bursa fills with excess fluid making the swelled portion visible through the skin. With time, the inflammation of the knee joint may double, and the swollen area may feel soft or squashy to touch.

  • Movement

With mild or moderate bursitis, you may not feel any restriction when moving the knee joint. However, in serious cases, the knee joint may not straighten easily, and flexibility reduces.

  • Pain and tenderness

The severity of pain varies in people with bursitis, and the area may feel painful or tender when resting. A person with bursitis may not feel pain when resting, but tenderness is common during kneeling, pressing over the knee, or bending. Many people may not experience symptoms of pain and tenderness. However, the pain and tenderness may be more when the bursa swells to become larger or when it becomes squeezed during straightening or bending of the leg.

  • Changes on the skin

The skin on the affected area around the knee appears red or pink and feels warm to touch. It is noted that the temperature of the skin over the bursa can increase and is more common in people with septic bursitis.

  • Fever and chills in septic bursitis

The symptoms of septic bursitis are fever, fatigue, chills, or a feeling unwell.

Causes of Knee Bursitis:

Several reasons can cause the development of knee-bursitis but knowing the underlying reasons helps in choosing suitable treatment. The primary causes of bursitis are.

  • Trauma

Repeated trauma or irritation caused due to kneeling on hard surfaces may cause bursitis as it puts pressure on the front portion of the knee where the prepatellar bursa is located. Trauma irritates the lining of the bursa and causes inflammation. The inflamed bursa produces excessive synovial fluid. The fluid deposits in the bursa, causing it to swell and develops into bursitis.

  • Injury

The symptoms of knee-bursitis may also appear due to a serious injury on the front knee. After an injury, the bursa may become filled with blood, causing the lining of the bursa to irritate and becomes inflamed. The blood absorbs into the body, but the bursa stays inflamed and produces more fluid to result in swelling and the symptoms of knee-bursitis.

  • Underlying conditions

Although not common, bursa inflammation can occur due to other conditions, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Infection

Knee bursitis can also occur due to an infection also called septic bursitis. Several medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism, and diabetes, may increase the risk of septic bursitis.

When to See a Physiotherapist for Knee Bursitis:

The inflammation or the lump-like structure on the knee may take you to a physiotherapist.

  • To rest the area and avoid pressure or pain.
  • For the application of ice packs within 15-20 minutes within every two hours
  • For treatments and electrothermal modalities that control and reduce the pain and inflammation.
  • Restoration of normal movement of the knee and leg
  • Stretching the tight leg muscles
  • Learning the correct exercises to strengthen the knee
  • Improving the muscular endurance of the leg
  • Regaining balance and restoration of speed
  • Learning to strengthen and stretching exercises at home
  • Setting goals to resume normal activities

Risks of Knee Bursitis:

The risks of bursitis are:

  • Engaging in long and strenuous activity
  • Blow or injury to the knee
  • Complications occurring due to rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis
  • Sustained or frequent pressure such as kneeling on hard surfaces
  • Infection of the bursa

How to Prevent Knee Bursitis:

Knee-bursitis is preventable with the following steps.

  • Wearing knee pads, especially kneeling on the knees or using cushion or padding to protect the knees.
  • Taking rest and breaks
  • Maintaining appropriate body weight
  • Avoid squatting

Treatments of Knee Bursitis:

Knee-bursitis may improve over time, so the treatments aim to provide relief from the symptoms. However, the treatment may vary based on the cause of knee-bursitis.

  • Medicines

When an infection is the source of bursitis, the doctor prescribes antibiotics.

  • Therapy

The doctor refers patients to physiotherapists or specialists of sports medicine to improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles. The therapy reduces pain and the risk of future flare-ups of bursitis.

More intensive treatments of bursitis are aspiration, surgery, and corticosteroid injections.

Related Conditions:

A physical therapist can also treat multiple conditions, such as joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis, breaking down of joint cartilages, degenerative arthritis, and various other symptoms. You must connect with a professional physiotherapist for the best results.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can physiotherapy cure knee-bursitis?
Physical therapy management can help reduce the pain and tenderness associated with bursitis and helps in flexing and strengthening the muscles of the knee. It also reduces swelling and prevents future recurrence of bursitis.
2. What happens when bursitis is left untreated?
When bursitis is left untreated, it causes the bursa to stay inflamed permanently, causing chronic pain and discomfort.

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