Our knees are put under a lot of stress every single day and can therefore be affected by many conditions. Knee tendinitis, patellofemoral syndrome, knee sprain or knee bursitis are just a few of them. We will focus on this last one today!
So what is knee bursitis, and how does it affect the bursae? Definition
Before jumping in, let’s try to understand what bursitis is. Bursitis and tendinitis are often confused, but they do not affect the same structure.
In fact, bursitis affects the bursae, which are small sacs of fluid that are located around the joints and act as cushions. Their role is to prevent friction and facilitate movement between the tendon and the bone.
Bursitis occurs when their capacity is exceeded, which causes them to become inflamed or irritated. In other words, bursitis occurs because of excessive friction between the tendons and the bursae.
The bursae that are under the greatest stress from a joint are those in the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee, making them the most likely to become inflamed.
The knee contains many bursae. All of them can potentially be affected by bursitis. The prepatellar bursa is located between the knee cap and the skin in front of it, and is the most commonly affected bursa.
What are the causes of bursitis?
In most cases, bursitis is caused by overuse of the joint, repetitive movements or a prolonged force and is therefore of mechanical origin.
Athletes in particular have a high risk of developing bursitis. The sports that put the most strain on the knees are running, basketball and soccer.
However, bursitis does not differentiate between seasoned athletes and beginners: unusual joint movement for a person with a sedentary lifestyle and a heavy training load can both cause this injury.
Wearing inappropriate footwear can also contribute to the development of bursitis.
It would be a mistake to associate bursitis with athletes only, as it also affects many workers.
People whose work requires a lot of strain on the knees, especially when squatting or kneeling, are also at risk. Plumbers, gardeners or maintenance workers are some examples. Squatting and kneeling promote inflammation of the prepatellar bursa.
Finally, we should mention that bursitis can also result from an impact or a trauma.
What are the symptoms of knee bursitis?
Pain is the main symptom of knee bursitis. It is usually localized.
It may be accompanied by swelling (like a small bump), which is the result of the high production of synovial fluid, and redness.
The pain may be felt when performing certain movements, especially those that cause inflammation of the bursa.
Some patients may also have mobility difficulties and a feeling of stiffness.
How can you tell if you have bursitis?
On its own, it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to know if you have bursitis. In fact, knee pain can be a symptom of many conditions, such as a sprain, tendinitis or even a femoropatellar syndrome.
The only way to determine the exact nature of your injury and its severity is to make an appointment with a healthcare professional.
Based on an evaluation, he or she will be able to set up a treatment plan adapted to your needs to manage and reduce your pain. Physiotherapy is an effective treatment for knee bursitis.
How can you treat knee bursitis quickly? Management and treatment with physiotherapy
Physiotherapy treatment aims to reduce your pain, to restore your functional abilities by correcting joint imbalances, and to help you return to your activities in a safe and long-lasting manner.
Your treatment plan will depend on the results of the evaluation that the therapist will do with you during your first session.
The purpose of the assessment is to understand the origin and cause of your pain, and the extent to which it interferes with your daily life. Your treatment can be adapted over time; nothing is set in stone.
The first part of the treatment consists of managing the pain, reducing it and ensuring that the condition does not worsen, all while maintaining joint mobility.
The assessment will have helped identify which movements are painful and should be limited during this phase.
Once the inflammation and pain have diminished, your physiotherapist can begin to gradually increase the load and intensity of the exercises, depending on your tolerance.
The objective of this part of the treatment is to rehabilitate your joints in preparation for your return to activity. It may include simulation exercises.
The treatment may include manual therapy, taping, ultrasound, personalized exercises or mobilization techniques.
Physiotherapy follow-up is also intended to prevent the recurrence of symptoms in the future.
If the treatment plan does not sufficiently reduce your pain, you may want to consider a cortisone injection.
A closer look at other bursitis: hip, shoulder (subacromial), elbow and ankle
Keep in mind that bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa of a joint, often due to intensive mobilization or repetitive movements.
The most common joint affected by bursitis is the shoulder, usually in the subacromial bursa, but all joints can be affected by this injury: the hip, the elbow or the wrist.
Wrist bursitis often affects athletes who have to hold an object in their hands. Thus, tennis and golf players are particularly vulnerable.
In the case of hip bursitis, the most common bursa involved is the trochanteric bursa. Bursitis can occur in runners or after a fall.
Bursitis should not be taken lightly. Untreated pain can lead to long-term loss of mobility, which is difficult and slow to regain once lost. If left untreated, acute bursitis (which is the inflammatory aspect of the injury) could lead to chronic bursitis.
This is why it is strongly recommended to consult a healthcare professional as soon as symptoms appear, or if they persist after a few days.
If you’re experiencing knee pain or any other joint pain, make an appointment with one of our physiotherapists directly.