Bursitis of the knee

Bursitis is when a Bursa in the knee becomes inflamed and swollen. The Bursa is a fluid-filled pouch which protects the front of the knee-cap. It used to be called “Housemaid’s Knee” from women who had to kneel down scrubbing floors. This damaged the bursa by the repeated pressure on the front of the knee. Care must also be taken if there is an abrasion as bacteria can enter the broken skin and could lead to infection.


The Bursa is commonly injured by a single hard blow or if you fall onto your knees from a height or it can be from overuse and friction.


The knee is usually swollen and often the bursa appears quite unsightly. The knee will still be mobile and often not particularly painful unless you press it. In some cases the knee will have gradually become worse over two or three weeks.


Use the Rice program. Apply ice for 15 minutes for the first 24 hours. It is helpful to crush ice finely or use frozen peas to mould around the knee. Bandage the knee to give support and rest with the leg elevated above heart level. This will drain blood and fluid from the knee and help reduce swelling and speed recovery.


If the swelling is not inflamed at all it is helpful to keep mobility in the knee. In a standing position, gently pull your ankle of the injured leg behind you until you feel a gentle stretch. This will bring blood and oxygen to the knee joint and speed recovery.

Repeat the stretches about four or five times and do those three or four times a day if possible.


The bursa needs to be fully healed and the knees have full flexibility and the leg strengthened. Always warm up as this brings blood and oxygen to the knee area and also the muscles and joints will be lubricated. Making time for warming up is important, and to get into a routine of warming up before sport is commenced will reduce risk of further injury and enhance performance. Never kneel down again!

A knee support should be worn to protect the knee. This will absorb a direct hit and spread the impact area.