Types of Knee Bursitis

Types of Knee Bursitis

Knee pain can stem from a variety of sources, and one frequently encountered culprit is knee bursitis. This condition occurs when the small, fluid-filled sacs called bursae that cushion and lubricate joints become inflamed. Understanding the different types of knee bursitis is crucial for effective management and recovery. In this article, we’ll delve into the various types of knee bursitis, their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What is Knee Bursitis?

Knee bursitis, also known as prepatellar bursitis or “housemaid’s knee,” is a condition characterized by inflammation of the bursa located in front of the kneecap (patella). A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between bones, tendons, muscles, and other tissues to reduce friction and allow smooth movement.

In the case of knee bursitis, the prepatellar bursa, which lies just above the kneecap and beneath the skin, becomes inflamed and swollen. This inflammation is often caused by repetitive friction, pressure, or trauma to the knee, which can lead to an accumulation of excess fluid within the bursa. This can result in pain, tenderness, warmth, swelling, and limited range of motion in the affected knee.

Common Causes of Knee Bursitis

Common Causes of Knee Bursitis

Knee bursitis can be caused by various factors that lead to irritation and inflammation of the bursa sac located around the knee joint. Some common causes of knee bursitis include:

  • Repetitive Kneeling: Prolonged and repetitive kneeling, especially on hard surfaces, can put pressure on the prepatellar bursa (the bursa in front of the kneecap), leading to irritation and inflammation. This is why knee bursitis is often referred to as “housemaid’s knee” or “preacher’s knee.”
  • Direct Trauma: A direct impact or blow to the knee can cause swelling and inflammation of the bursa. This can result from falls, accidents, or sports-related injuries.
  • Overuse or Repetitive Motion: Activities that involve frequent bending and straightening of the knee joint, such as running, cycling, or stair climbing, can lead to friction and irritation of the bursa, eventually causing bursitis.
  • Infection: Bacterial infection of the bursa can cause a condition known as septic bursitis. This can occur if bacteria enter the bursa through a cut or wound, leading to inflammation, pain, swelling, and sometimes fever.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can lead to the inflammation of the bursa and contribute to the development of knee bursitis.
  • Gout: Gout is a type of arthritis caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in joints. If uric acid crystals accumulate in the knee joint or the bursa, it can lead to inflammation and bursitis.
  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis, which involves the gradual breakdown of joint cartilage, can affect the knee joint and potentially lead to bursitis.
  • Obesity: Excess body weight can increase the pressure on the knee joint, leading to increased friction and irritation of the bursa.

Types of Knee Bursitis

There are several types of knee bursitis that can affect different bursae around the knee joint. The main types of knee bursitis include:

Prepatellar Bursitis

Among the types of knee bursitis, prepatellar bursitis is notable. It involves the inflammation of the prepatellar bursa, located just above the kneecap. Gardeners, plumbers, and individuals who frequently kneel are at a higher risk. Symptoms include swelling, warmth, and tenderness. Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications are common treatment approaches.

Infrapatellar Bursitis

The infrapatellar bursa, positioned just below the kneecap, can also become inflamed. Long-distance runners and individuals engaging in jumping activities are susceptible. Pain during activities like climbing stairs or kneeling can indicate infrapatellar bursitis. Proper diagnosis involves physical examination and imaging tests.

Pes Anserine Bursitis

Pes anserine bursitis involves the inflammation of the pes anserine bursa on the inner side of the knee. This often affects individuals who participate in activities that require repetitive leg motion, such as running or cycling. The discomfort can be managed through rest, physical therapy, and modifying activity routines.

Suprapatellar Bursitis

Suprapatellar bursitis, also known as quadriceps tendon bursitis, is a condition involving inflammation of the bursa located between the quadriceps tendon and the femur bone, just above the patella (kneecap).

This bursa helps reduce friction and cushion the movement of the quadriceps tendon as it passes over the femur. When this bursa becomes inflamed, it can cause pain, swelling, and discomfort in the front of the knee.

Popliteal Bursitis

Popliteal bursitis, also known as Baker’s cyst, is a condition characterized by the inflammation and swelling of the bursa located in the back of the knee, in the popliteal fossa. The popliteal fossa is a small hollow at the back of the knee joint.

A Baker’s cyst occurs when excess synovial fluid (a lubricating fluid found in joints) accumulates in the bursa, causing it to bulge and form a cyst-like swelling. This condition can cause discomfort, pain, and limited movement in the affected knee.

It’s important to note that while these are common types of knee bursitis, individuals can experience bursitis in other locations around the knee joint as well. The symptoms and treatment approach can vary depending on the specific type of bursitis.

Diagnosis of Types of Knee Bursitis

Diagnosis of Types of Knee Bursitis

The diagnosis of different types of knee bursitis involves a combination of a medical history review, physical examination, and sometimes imaging studies. Here’s how healthcare professionals typically diagnose the various types of knee bursitis:

  • Medical History Review: Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, including the location of the pain when it started, and any activities or incidents that might have triggered it. They will also inquire about your occupation, hobbies, and exercise routines to identify potential factors contributing to the bursitis.
  • Physical Examination: During the physical examination, your doctor will examine your knee to assess for swelling, tenderness, warmth, and range of motion. They will also look for signs of redness or inflammation. By pressing on different areas around the knee, your doctor can determine which bursa might be affected and gather information about the specific type of bursitis.
  • Palpation: Your doctor may use palpation (gentle touching and pressure) to assess the bursae and surrounding tissues for tenderness, swelling, or fluid accumulation.
  • Imaging Studies: While often not necessary for diagnosing common types of knee bursitis, imaging studies like X-rays or ultrasound may be recommended if the diagnosis is unclear or if there are concerns about underlying conditions, such as osteoarthritis. These imaging methods can help visualize the bones, joints, and soft tissues in and around the knee.

Treatment Approaches for Types of Knee Bursitis

Treatment Approaches for Types of Knee Bursitis

It’s important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Here are some common treatment approaches:

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Give the affected knee some rest to allow the inflammation to subside. Avoid activities that aggravate the condition, such as kneeling or activities that involve repeated bending of the knee.
  • Ice: Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce swelling and pain. Use an ice pack wrapped in a cloth and apply it for about 15-20 minutes every few hours.
  • Pain Medications: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Compression: Using a compression bandage or knee brace can provide support and help reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Elevating the affected leg can help reduce swelling by promoting fluid drainage.
  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can guide you through exercises that help strengthen the muscles around the knee and improve flexibility. These exercises can help prevent recurrences of knee bursitis and promote healing.
  • Aspiration: In some cases, a doctor may use a needle and syringe to aspirate (remove) excess fluid from the inflamed bursa, providing immediate relief.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: If conservative treatments aren’t effective, your doctor may inject a corticosteroid medication into the bursa to reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms. However, repeated use of corticosteroid injections should be monitored, as it can lead to weakening of the surrounding tissues.


Understanding the various types of knee bursitis is essential for effective management. By recognizing the signs, taking preventive measures, and seeking timely medical attention, individuals can navigate the challenges posed by knee bursitis and maintain their quality of life.

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