Knee bursitis affects people of all ages and backgrounds. But, the good news is that most cases are mild. And, to make things even sweeter, home remedies for knee bursitis help it heal smoother. (1)
Before we get to them, though, know this:
Mild cases of knee bursitis can easily get worse if you don’t take precautions.
Perhaps the most common example here is pushing through pain. This can actually prolong your agony to months instead of weeks.
Having said that, here are 4 things you can do at home to treat knee bursitis:
Best home remedies to treat knee bursitis
1) Rest to ease pain and promote healing
Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that reduce the friction between joints, tendons, and muscles.
A swollen bursa also compromises its friction-reducing properties. Hence, why excessive movement can make your knee bursitis worse.
So, here’s the bottom line:
If you don’t want to turn your mild knee bursitis into something more severe, you rest.
This doesn’t mean you should lie in bed all day, though.
No, it’s more about letting your symptoms guide you. Let your knee pain tell you how much you should move and how much you need to rest.
How to do this at home, you ask? Here are a few guidelines:
- If your injury is recent, avoid activities that increase your symptoms. This will help reduce pain in your knee joint. Common examples include walking and kneeling.
- After a few days, if walking is still painful or it still makes your symptoms worse, rest. It still might be too much for your bursa at the moment.
- Once you feel better, try walking a shorter distance to check how you feel.
Remember: Pain is how your body tells you to stop. It’s only wise to listen.
2) Try the RICE protocol to reduce swelling
This is the most common home remedy for knee swelling. RICE stands for:
- Rest. Avoid activities that worsen your symptoms.
- Ice. Cold temperatures can help you reduce swelling temporarily.
- Compression around the knee joint. This should help regulate your inflammation.
- Elevation. Elevate your knee above your heart. This puts gravity in your favor and, again, helps fight off inflammation. When you’re sitting or in bed, simply prop your knee with a couple of pillows.
This protocol will be most effective during the first few days of bursitis. It may relieve pain as well, helping you get back on track faster.
How to do this at home?
- Lie on your back.
- Apply ice on the affected bursa. If the cold is uncomfortable, place a towel between your skin and the ice pack.
- Use compressive wraps or knee sleeves around your swollen joint. It should feel snug; not loose or tight.
- Prop your injured leg on top of some pillows to elevate the knee joint above your heart.
- Do this for 10-15 minutes, 2-3 times per day, or as suggested by your physical therapist.
If your bursitis pain gets worse, loosen the compression and/or remove the ice.
Some people don’t like using ice together with compression – and that’s okay. Just use one or the other.
3) Wear knee pads to prevent it from getting worse
In case you can’t avoid kneeling because of your job, hobby, or athletic activities, try wearing a knee pad.
It can provide compression, stability, and a softer surface to kneel on. Thus, help prevent your knee bursitis from getting worse.
Knee pads also help with other types of knee joint pain. Which, by the way, are common in people with recurrent bursitis.
If you’re not sure what kind of knee support you need, visit your physical therapist. He/she will check your needs and symptoms then prescribe the right garment.
This brings us to our next tip.
4) Go to physical therapy
A big part of your PT’s job will be to design a home-care plan that will help relieve your painful swelling. This plan should also help you strengthen your muscles and keep your joints limber.
All in all, this should help you return to your normal activities faster than you would on your own. It should help prevent future episodes as well.
Having said that, different PTs have different specialties.
So, if you’re an athlete, it’s best you go to a physical therapist who concentrates on sports.
Assuming you have other diseases like arthritis or metabolic disorders, try to find a PT with experience in those areas, too.
If you need help finding a suitable PT near you, let us know! We can help make that connection for you!
What if home remedies aren’t enough for my knee bursitis?
Most people respond well to conservative treatment. But, sometimes, the affected bursa won’t get well on its own.
This can happen because it got infected, or it’s chronic bursitis that’s flaring up.
Your other treatment options depend on the characteristics of your knee bursitis:
- Fluid aspiration. This is usually the first option. It works for septic bursitis that’s grown resistant to antibiotics. It’s also an option for bursitis caused by metabolic disorders. (2)
- Corticosteroid injections. It’s an option if your knee symptoms don’t improve within 7-14 days. (3)
- Surgery. This is the last resort. Your doctor will explore the option if conservative treatments don’t improve your symptoms. Or, if you have recurrent or chronic bursitis.
More about surgery: Orthopaedic surgeons usually remove a part of- or the whole bursa. This depends on the severity of your injury.
Knee bursitis: symptoms, causes, and types
The most common symptoms of knee bursitis are pain and swelling on the affected bursa. The area tends to be tender to the touch. If it’s infected, it can also feel warm.
Knee pain and swelling also impair the range of motion in the knee joint. Thus, making it difficult to walk, climb stairs, or sit with your legs crossed.
If you have an infected bursitis, you may catch a fever as well.
Causes of bursitis
One of the most common causes of knee bursitis is prolonged kneeling. The constant pressure on the bursa irritates the tissue. This triggers an inflammatory response from the bursa.
If the pressure continues, the inflammation gets worse and can cause bursitis.
Another common cause of bursitis is repetitive motions. The constant friction of tendons or bones against the bursa can irritate it as well.
- A direct impact on the bursa.
- Inflammatory or autoimmune conditions. Like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, or gout.
Types of knee bursitis
“Septic” means the tissue is infected. So, an infection is what’s causing your bursitis. It might have come from (4):
- An injury that pierced your bursa.
- A previous infection that spread from the blood to the bursa.
- A corticoid injection to relieve the symptoms of non-septic bursitis. The puncture may have accidentally let bacteria in.
Note that the symptoms of septic bursitis are like those of non-infected bursitis.
So, your doctor might ask for a blood test and a sample of bursa fluid to confirm his/her suspicions. The tests also let your doctor what bacteria is causing the infection. (4)
The treatment for septic bursitis consists of at least 10 days of antibiotics. (4) You’ll probably have to repeat the blood tests a few times to make sure your body got rid of the infection.
The most common risk factors include (3):
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- A previous non-infected bursitis.
The medical term is “prepatellar bursitis” and it’s the most frequent type of bursitis on the knee. (3)
The prepatellar bursa sits on top of the kneecap. Its exposed location makes it prone to swelling after prolonged kneeling.
This is also why it’s colloquially known as “housemaid’s knee”, “carpenter’s knee”, and “carpet layer’s knee”. This is because frequent and prolonged kneeling is inherent to these professions.
The main symptom apart from knee pain is a balloon-like swelling on top of the kneecap. (1)
The infrapatellar bursa is below the kneecap, close to the tip of the shin bone. It can also become inflamed after prolonged kneeling but in a different occupation. (5)
This type of bursitis is also known as “clergyman’s knee.” The position for praying during mass – kneeling with an upright torso – can irritate the infrapatellar bursa.
Here, the bursitis pain is below the kneecap, with a lump in the affected area.
Is walking good for knee bursitis?
If walking doesn’t make your pain worse, then yes. In fact, your physical therapist may recommend walking as part of your knee bursitis treatment.
But, it’s best to avoid walking if it’s causing pain. It will help reduce inflammation.
How do you heal bursitis fast?
If your bursitis isn’t septic, avoid activities that worsen your pain. Use ice packs for the first few days to reduce inflammation. Also, take the medication your doctor prescribed.
If you have septic bursitis, take your antibiotics as your doctor recommended to heal it fast.
Yet, if your bursitis doesn’t get better after following this advice, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. They will check if something else is going on.
Can I drain knee bursitis myself?
You can drain the knee bursitis yourself with rest, the RICE protocol, and/or anti-inflammatory medication.
But, you shouldn’t drain the bursitis fluid with a syringe without medical supervision. You can introduce bacteria in the already vulnerable injury and cause an infection.
In this case, a health care provider should perform the aspiration of your bursitis.
Conclusion: 5 Home remedies for bursitis on the knee
A bursitis happens when a bursa, a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction between tissues, gets swollen. It mostly happens after a repetitive activity is done for too long.
The most common cause of knee bursitis is kneeling. Its treatment can be done at home, as long as the bursa isn’t infected.
Make sure to avoid movements that worsen your knee pain and swelling, and go to physical therapy to receive the best treatment for you!
- Rishor-Olney CR, Pozun A. “Prepatellar Bursitis.” [Updated 2021 Feb 22]. StatPearls. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557508/
- Williams CH, Jamal Z, Sternard BT. “Bursitis.” [Updated 2021 Jan 17]. StatPearls. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513340/
- Lohr, Kristine. “Bursitis: Practice essentials.” [Updated 2020 Dec 11]. Medscape. Available from: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2145588-overview
- Truong J, et al. “Septic Bursitis.” [Updated 2021 Jan 22]. StatPearls. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470331/
- Jain, Mantu et al. “Infrapatellar bursitis presenting as a lump.” BMJ case reports vol. 14,5 e243581. 25 May. 2021, doi:10.1136/bcr-2021-243581