Is Walking Good For Knee Bursitis? | Yes and No. Here’s Why.

doctor holding a board with the word bursitis, for patients with knee bursitis

“Housemaid’s knee” is one of the most common types of bursitis. And, it happens because of repetitive motion. This raises the question: Is walking good for knee bursitis? (1)

The short answer is that, yes, walking can be good for knee bursitis. But, there are certain situations where it might be better to stay off your feet.

For example, you can do light walking if you still want to stay active but running makes your pain worse. But, you should also avoid walking long distances if you have poor mechanics.

Allow me to get into better detail.

Is it ok to walk with knee bursitis?

Well, as I said, it’s situational.

You shouldn’t walk with knee bursitis if:

When it comes to a fresh injury…

Any physical therapist – or medical professional for that matter– who’s worth his/her salt will tell you that rest is a crucial part of recovery.

“Why”, you ask?

Well, resting is your body’s way of healing itself. In a nutshell:

  • Your injury is going to swell for the first few days,
  • Gradually shrink, then
  • You’ll eventually get back to normal.

Between these are all sorts of biological processes that heal your body. Rest allows all of them to happen unimpeded.

So, stay away from activities that might worsen your knee pain. If walking happens to be one of those activities, then it might be best to stay off your feet.

On that note…

Don’t walk if your knee pain worsens because of it.

This happens hand-in-hand with resting your knee joint.

You see, your body is well capable of communicating. Pain, in particular, is its way of saying that something’s wrong.

So, if walking makes your pain worse, that’s your body telling you that you’re not ready to walk yet.

In this case, going to a physical therapist will solve a lot of problems for you.

  • For one, your PT will give you at-home exercises. This is so you remain active while your body heals. These include stretching exercises, strengthening, and if you’re ready, a weight-bearing exercise.
  • Second, he/she might prescribe crutches. These, as well as other walking aids, will take pressure away from your knee. (3) Thus, giving you the option to still be ambulatory should you need it.
  • Lastly, your PT might recommend using a knee brace. Knee braces help add stability and compression to your knee joint. These, in turn, speed up your recovery.

PS: We can help you find a capable physical therapist in your area. Getting to know other PTs is a big part of what we do here. Should you need help, we’re more than willing to make that connection for you.

Does your knee bursitis come with other injuries?

If so, then it might not be your bursitis that you need to worry about.

Knee bursitis, as you might already know, happens because of extended pressure, repetitive movement, and trauma.(2)

Several other knee injuries happen because of these same exact injuries. For example, you could fracture your knee cap and hurt your bursitis in a fall. In this case, the fracture may need you to rest.

Arthritis is another common example and is commonly associated with pes anserine bursitis.

On the other hand…

Yes, it’s okay to walk with knee bursitis if:

  • Your knee doesn’t hurt when you walk
  • Walking wasn’t what caused your injury

If walking doesn’t worsen your knee pain, then, yes, you can walk.

That is, of course, if your baseline pain levels allow you to walk in the first place.

Less pain generally means that your injury has gotten better. So, your PT will likely also use your pain levels as an indicator that you’re ready for more challenging treatments.

Naturally, this includes getting back on your feet.

If your knee didn’t swell up because of walking, it still might be a good idea to walk.

That said, walking rarely causes knee bursitis. But, when it does happen, it’s likely because of the following:

  • You walked a ridiculous length of distance
  • Your walking mechanics are all out of whack

These 2 relate to each other because a mechanically sound walk won’t likely cause any injury. But, if you have imbalances, your body won’t be able to optimally dissipate pressure. Thus, leading to bursitis and other injuries.

In this case, walking long distances is a bad idea because it might worsen your injury.

Get in touch with a physical therapist and have your gait examined and corrected.

Further reading: Here’s how physical therapists help you recover from knee bursitis.

What is the best exercise for knee bursitis?

There’s no specific exercise here, really. But, the best ones are those that strengthen and/or stretch your knee muscles without making your bursitis symptoms worse.

This is especially true during the early parts of your recovery. Of course, you can do these exercises at home. Here are a few examples:

Straight-leg raise

  1. Lie flat on your back. Leave your affected leg straight and your uninjured knee bent.
  2. Slowly raise your injured leg up. About 45-60 degrees should be enough. Remember to keep your leg straight so your quad is activated the entire time.
  3. Slowly lower your leg back to the starting position.

Straight-leg raises strengthen your quadriceps muscle without putting pressure on your knee joints.

Quadriceps setting exercise

  1. Sit on your bed or floor. Keep your affected knee straight and your healthy leg bent.
  2. Place a thin rolled towel right under your injured knee.
  3. Push the towel straight down using the back of your knee. This activates your quadriceps.
  4. Hold the contraction for 5 seconds then relax. Don’t forget to breathe.

Holding the contraction for 1-5 seconds for these exercises strengthens your muscles.(4)

Heel slides

  1. Lie flat on your back. Bend your healthy leg but keep your affected knee straight.
  2. Slowly bend your affected leg towards your buttocks. Stop when your foot is flat on the floor or if you feel a slight stretch on your thigh muscles.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds then slowly straighten your knee back to its starting position.

This exercise works your hamstrings (or the muscles at the back of your thighs).

FAQs:

How can I heal bursitis in my knee fast?

The fastest way to heal your knee bursitis is to rest.

Remember: Bursitis happens when there’s too much fluid in your bursa. Your fluid-filled sac swells up because of repetitive use, extended periods of pressure, and trauma.

So, it only stands to reason that resting your injury – thus taking a break from whatever caused it – will also help it heal.

Additionally, you may also do the following to treat knee bursitis:

  • Use ice packs (for the first few days only)
  • Use a knee sleeve or compression bandages
  • Elevate your injured leg
  • Take anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medicine as prescribed by your doctor

Along with rest, these treatments are collectively called RICE. It’s done to reduce swelling and reduce pain without compromising recovery.

Does walking aggravate bursitis?

Walking won’t always be bad. As a matter of fact, walking is a part of any physical therapy exercise program.

Walking helps prevent knee bursitis because your muscles naturally get stronger. It also helps make your joints more limber.

Although, try to avoid walking if the following applies to you:

  • It’s a new injury
  • The pain gets worse when you put pressure on your leg
  • There’s another injury/condition that might be more serious than your bursitis

What causes bursitis?

There are many types of knee bursitis. The most heard of ones include:

  • Infrapatellar bursitis
  • Prepatellar bursitis, and
  • Pes anserine bursitis.

Per research, causes include(2):

  • Prolonged pressure
  • Repetitive motion
  • Trauma

Conclusion: Can you walk with bursitis of the knee?

Yes, you can walk with this injury but only if your joint pain and swelling don’t get worse when you walk. Or, if walking didn’t cause your fluid-filled sacs to swell up in the first place.

Otherwise, it might be better to rest your injury.

That said, you need to figure out what caused your injury in the first place so it doesn’t happen again. Pay your physical therapist a visit so you can both work together and find lasting solutions.

Resources

  1. Khodaee, Morteza. “Common Superficial Bursitis.” American Family Physician, 15 Feb. 2017, www.aafp.org/afp/2017/0215/p224.html
  2. Williams CH, Jamal Z, Sternard BT. Bursitis. [Updated 2021 Jan 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513340/
  3. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. How can bursitis be treated? 2018 Jul 26. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525763/
  4. Lum, Danny, and Tiago M Barbosa. “Brief Review: Effects of Isometric Strength Training on Strength and Dynamic Performance.” International journal of sports medicine vol. 40,6 (2019): 363-375. doi:10.1055/a-0863-4539