Knee Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery, Pain Management

January 27, 2017

How to Address a Painful Knee Bursitis Diagnosis


Knee bursitis pain can develop because of trauma or just from overusing your knee joint. If you’re dealing with this diagnosis, treatment is available.

When one or more of the small sacs in your knee become inflamed, your doctor will likely diagnose you with a case of knee bursitis. These sacs, called bursa, help cushion the bones, muscles and soft tissue that make up your knee joint. Without this cushion, knee bursitis pain can take over. After you have been diagnosed with this kind of condition, there are several treatment options that can provide you with relief.

Common Symptoms of Knee Bursitis
Knee bursitis is typically your diagnosis if you have some of the following symptoms:

  • Swelling – The part of your knee affected by bursitis might swell up due to a buildup of fluid. In some cases, swelling might cause a large lump just underneath your skin.
  • Pain – Knee bursitis can cause mild soreness and tenderness, or more severe pain. You might feel general soreness in your knee throughout the day, or pain might flare up when you kneel, which puts more pressure on your knee. Unfortunately, the more your knee swells, the more pain you’re likely to feel.
  • Limited flexibility – If you have severe knee bursitis, you might have trouble bending or straightening your knee. Your range of motion is usually not affected if you have a milder case.
  • Warm, reddish skin – In addition to swelling, your skin might become reddish and feel warmer in the affected part of your knee.

Keep in mind that if you develop a fever, you might have septic bursitis, which is an infection that requires urgent medical care and treatment with antibiotics. See your doctor as soon as possible if you have a fever as well as symptoms of knee bursitis.

Knee Bursitis Treatment Options
Your doctor will check for other potential causes of knee pain in order to rule out other medical conditions. If a physical exam, lab tests, and imaging tests lead to a knee bursitis diagnosis, your doctor will discuss treatment options that will help control inflammation and relieve your symptoms. Depending on how severe your knee bursitis pain becomes, the recommended treatment may include the following:

  • Home care – Resting your affected knee, avoiding kneeling and other movements that can make your condition worse, putting cold compresses on your knee to reduce swelling and keeping your knee elevated could help relieve your knee bursitis pain at home.
  • Medication – Your doctor might prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications or recommend that you take over-the-counter alternatives, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, to reduce your knee bursitis pain. Topical medications, such as sprays or creams, can also be applied to the affected knee for pain relief.
  • Corticosteroid injections – Pain management injections can be strategically administered directly to the affected area, which provides quick relief. However, temporary pain, discomfort and other side effects can occur.
  • Aspiration – Aspiration involves reducing the amount of fluid in the affected bursa by using a needle and syringe. You doctor may do this immediately upon your diagnosis in their office, or recommend a less invasive form of knee bursitis treatment first to see if that offers you any relief.
  • Surgery – If you have chronic knee bursitis pain and other symptoms that do not respond to other forms of treatment, your doctor might recommend surgery. The most common procedure, known as a bursectomy, involves removing the affected bursa. A bursectomy can be done by making a larger incision in the knee, which is the traditional procedure, or by making smaller incisions and using small surgical tools and a camera to remove the bursa. This minimally invasive procedure, known as an arthroscopic bursectomy, offers a lower risk of complications. If you are a candidate for this kind of surgery, an orthopedic surgeon will discuss it with you.

Treatments for knee bursitis are generally successful at relieving your symptoms and making it possible to return to your normal activities. Keep in mind that you if you undergo surgery, you might need to do physical therapy during recovery after your symptoms have subsided, and you will need to limit certain activities until pain and swelling are gone. If you ignore your doctor’s recommendations, your symptoms could come back.

If you have any questions about your knee bursitis pain, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital at (877) 918-7020 for help with scheduling your consultation with one of our renowned orthopedic surgeons.

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