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If you have swollen, painful knees that are tender to the touch, you may have knee bursitis.

Knee bursitis is very common among people ages 40 to 60. Even so, many adults don’t know how to recognize knee bursitis, how to treat it, and when to seek medical intervention if they need it.

This article will explain what knee bursitis is, how to prevent it, and what to do if you may have this condition.

Most acute cases of bursitis heal in time, given adequate rest and recovery.

So, if you notice any of the symptoms of knee bursitis, take a break from any physical activity that irritates your knee joint and wait until your condition improves to resume your daily tasks.

Managing symptoms of knee bursitis usually includes ice, rest, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen.

Sometimes your medical team may advise aspiration of the bursa, 2020 research suggests. In aspiration, a healthcare professional will remove some of the fluid in the bursa sac.

This allows doctors to test the fluid to ensure it’s not septic (infected). If they find that the fluid is septic, they’ll likely prescribe antibiotics as well.

If your knee bursitis becomes chronic, or long lasting, your doctor may suggest corticosteroid injections in addition to the more conservative treatments listed above.

Knee bursitis is swelling or inflammation of the bursa, the small fluid-filled sac located between either the skin and the tendon or the tendon and the bone.

“Bursae” is the Latin word for bags. These bags act like tiny pillows, which cushion different joints in the body. Bursitis develops when these sacs become inflamed, 2018 research explains. Fluid may build up around the joint, a process called effusion.

In the case of the knee, the bursae help protect it when you rest your knee on a hard surface. This helps reduce friction between the soft tissue and bone.

There are over a hundred bursae throughout your body. When excessive pressure is placed on these sacs — either from repetitive use or a direct blow — it can cause the bursae to become inflamed and swell.

Symptoms of knee bursitis include pain around the knee when touched as well as any visible swelling around the joint or swelling you can feel around the area.

You may notice tenderness, redness, or warmth around your knee.

In the case of septic bursitis, you may also have a fever and chills.

Frequent, sustained pressure on a joint is the most common cause of bursitis. Each year 1 in every 10,000 people will develop it in their knees or elbows.

Most cases of knee bursitis come from excessive kneeling during activities. The colloquial name for knee bursitis is housemaid’s knee because of the long hours that maids would spend on their knees during work.

To this day, people in certain professions are more likely to experience knee bursitis, including carpenters, tile installers, roofers, and gardeners. Sitting at a computer for extended periods of time may also contribute to a higher risk of bursitis, 2018 research suggests.

Other causes of bursitis may include:

  • a direct blow to the knee
  • bacterial infection
  • complications from arthritis or gout

Common approaches to prevent knee bursitis include wearing kneepads and taking breaks from any job that requires you to kneel often, 2018 research advises.

Healthcare professionals may also recommend physical therapy and range of motion exercises, 2022 research suggests. Strengthening the muscles around the bursa can often help support the knee.

If bursitis doesn’t improve with conservative treatment, you and your doctor may decide that surgery is an option. Surgery is usually a last resort treatment, however.

Can I walk with knee bursitis?

You can walk, but if you have acute knee bursitis, you may want to avoid excessive movement until symptoms decrease.

What causes knee bursitis to flare up?

Flare-ups can result from repeated pressure on the knee, a direct blow to the knee, bacterial infection, or underlying inflammatory conditions like gout or rheumatoid arthritis.

What does knee bursitis feel like?

Most people will feel pain in and around the knee joint at rest, but even more when moving. You may also feel warmth and tenderness in the affected area, and you may develop a fever if you have a bacterial infection.

Does knee bursitis ever go away?

The outlook for most patients with bursitis is good, according to 2022 research.

With adequate rest, bursitis should heal in a few weeks. If you have repeated flare-ups that don’t go away, seek medical treatment.

Knee bursitis is an inflammation of the bursae between your tendons, skin, and bones at the knee joint.

If you notice swelling, pain, or redness around your knee and you have been participating in an activity that places pressure on that knee, you should rest your knee as much as possible. Do not continue any activity that will irritate your knee until the bursitis goes away.

If you work at a job that requires you to spend hours on your knees, try to take frequent breaks so you can avoid excessive swelling in your joints. Stand up, stretch, and wear knee pads.

If you have any chronic health conditions that could trigger a case of bursitis, be mindful to manage your symptoms and seek medical intervention if needed.

Rest assured, while knee bursitis is not a pleasant experience, it is a curable condition that does not typically result in permanent damage.