Knee Bursitis

Knee bursitis, also known as prepatellar bursitis or housemaid’s knee, is a condition that occurs when the small fluid-filled sacs called bursae located in front of the kneecap become inflamed and irritated. These bursae serve as cushions between the bones, tendons, and muscles around the knee joint, and help to reduce friction and pressure during movement. When they become inflamed, they can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the knee joint. Knee bursitis can be acute or chronic, and can be caused by various factors such as overuse, trauma, infection, or underlying medical conditions.

Causes of Knee Bursitis

Knee bursitis can be caused by several factors, including:

Overuse or repetitive stress: Activities that involve frequent kneeling, crawling, or bending of the knee, such as gardening, housecleaning, or carpet laying, can lead to irritation and inflammation of the bursae.

Trauma or injury: A direct blow or fall onto the kneecap can cause bleeding and swelling within the bursae, leading to bursitis.

Infection: In rare cases, bacteria can infect the bursae, causing an inflammatory response and leading to bursitis.

Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, or systemic lupus erythematosus, can increase the risk of developing knee bursitis.

Medications: Long-term use of certain medications, such as corticosteroids, can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infection and bursitis.

Signs and Symptoms of Knee Bursitis

The signs and symptoms of knee bursitis can vary depending on the severity of the inflammation and the underlying cause. Some common symptoms include:

  • Pain and tenderness: The affected area around the kneecap may be tender to the touch and may feel achy or sharp. The pain may worsen with movement or pressure.
  • Swelling: The bursae may become swollen and cause visible bulging around the kneecap. The area may also feel warm or red.
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion: Knee bursitis can make it difficult to bend or straighten the knee fully, which can affect normal movement and function.
  • Discomfort when kneeling: Direct pressure on the kneecap, such as when kneeling, can cause increased pain and discomfort.
  • Fever or chills: In cases of infected bursitis, additional symptoms such as fever or chills may occur.

It is important to seek medical attention if these symptoms persist or worsen over time, as untreated knee bursitis can lead to chronic pain and limited mobility.

Treatment for Knee Bursitis

Physiotherapy treatment for knee bursitis aims to reduce pain and inflammation, improve range of motion, and restore normal function to the knee. Some common physiotherapy interventions for knee bursitis include:

Ice or heat therapy: Applying ice or heat to the affected area can help reduce swelling and pain.

Compression: Wearing a compression bandage or wrap around the knee can help reduce swelling and provide support.

Therapeutic exercises: Strengthening and stretching exercises can help improve knee stability and range of motion. These exercises may include squats, lunges, leg curls, and calf raises.

Manual therapy: Soft tissue mobilization, massage, and joint mobilization techniques can help relieve pain and stiffness in the knee.

Activity modification: Avoiding activities that worsen knee pain, such as kneeling or repetitive bending, can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Education and self-management: Physiotherapists can provide education on proper knee mechanics, posture, and body mechanics to reduce strain on the knee joint and prevent future injury.

The specific treatment approach will depend on the underlying cause and severity of the knee bursitis, as well as individual factors such as age, health status, and activity level. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional or physiotherapist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about knee bursitis please call us at 03 9836 1126.



Kavuncu, V., Evcik, D., & Samli, F. (2018). Effectiveness of physical therapy and corticosteroid injection in the management of pes anserinus tendino-bursitis: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of Physical Therapy Science

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