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Knee bursitis

Knee bursitis is inflammation of a bursa located near your knee joint. A bursa is a small fluid-filled, pad-like sac that reduces friction and cushions pressure points between your bones and the tendons and muscles near your joints.

Each of your knees has 11 bursae. While any of these bursae can become inflamed, knee bursitis most commonly occurs over the kneecap or on the inner side of your knee below the joint.

Knee bursitis causes pain and can limit your mobility. Treatment for knee bursitis often includes a combination of self-care practices and doctor-administered treatments to alleviate pain and inflammation.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Prevention

Knee bursitis signs and symptoms may vary, depending on which bursa is affected and what precisely is causing the inflammation.

In general, the affected portion of your knee may feel warm, tender and swollen when you put pressure on it. You may also feel pain when you move or even at rest.

A sharp blow to the knee can cause symptoms to appear rapidly. But most cases of knee bursitis result from repetitive injuries — sustained in jobs that require a lot of kneeling — so symptoms usually begin gradually and may worsen over time.

When to see a doctor

The bursa that lies over your kneecap can sometimes become infected. Call your doctor if you have a fever in addition to pain and swelling in your knee.

Knee bursitis can be caused by:

  • Frequent and sustained pressure, such as from kneeling
  • A direct blow to your knee
  • Bacterial infection of the bursa
  • Complications from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or gout in your knee

Knee bursitis is a common complaint, but the following factors may increase your risk of developing this painful disorder.

  • Excessive kneeling. People who work on their knees for long periods of time — carpet layers, plumbers and gardeners — are at increased risk of knee bursitis.
  • Participation in certain sports. Sports that result in direct blows or frequent falls on the knee — such as wrestling, football and volleyball — may increase your risk of knee bursitis. Runners may develop pain and inflammation in the anserine bursa, located on the inner side of your knee below the joint.
  • Obesity and osteoarthritis. Anserine bursitis, affecting the inner side of your knee below the joint, often occurs in obese women with osteoarthritis.

You can take steps to avoid knee bursitis or prevent its recurrence:

  • Wear kneepads. If you're working on your knees or participating in sports that put your knees at risk, use padding to cushion and protect your knees.
  • Take breaks. If you're on your knees for an extended period of time, take regular breaks to stretch your legs and give your knees a rest.
  • Avoid excessive squatting. Excessive or repetitious bending of your knees increases the force on your knee joints.
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